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The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly evident around the globe. Longer droughts, rising sea levels, and more frequent natural disasters impact countless people and communities. These events oftentimes more greatly affect populations who contribute least to environmental change or those with fewer resources available to mitigate the damage it causes to their communities. This collection examines the ways climate change affects vulnerable communities and populations and brings together knowledge and insights that highlight the impact foundations and nonprofits are having in addressing it.

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Data Science for Water Justice: Climate Change and Drought in the Colorado River Basin

April 18, 2023

Climate change threatens the hydrological cycle the globe over, increasing the likelihood of extreme events and dramatically altered ecosystems. The impacts of these events are most felt by those least able to adapt or move away from them. This paper uses a global framework to identify key data science engagement points, and illustrates these points in the case of the Colorado River Basin (CRB), a social-ecological system that provides a case study emblematic of many climate change accelerated water justice challenges.

Concern for Climate Change Directly Informs Youth Civic Engagement

December 14, 2023

In December 2023, nations from around the world gathered at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28). The climate issue has been a central concern of young activists and voters in recent years, and ranked among the top 5 issues for youth in the months leading up to COP28.Youth concern about climate presents an important opportunity to engage a diverse group of youth and support their leadership. However, we need to better understand the relationships different youth have to the issue and how their distinct attitudes and experiences, as well as differences in their backgrounds and access to resources, shape what it takes to involve them in meaningful action.This report, based on new data from CIRCLE's nationally representative survey of young people (ages 18-34) ahead of the 2024 election, examined patterns in young people's relationship to climate change in order to inform how organizations communicate with and reach youth with an understanding of how different youth approach this critical global issue. Our analysis identified four groups of youth whose connection—or lack thereof—to the climate issue can influence future efforts to engage them.

When Communities Keep Flooding: A Rural Environmental Justice Case Study

December 7, 2023

We all want to live in places that are safe and able to respond to disasters. But right now, many rural communities and Native nations — especially communities of color and low-wealth places — experience repeated devastating flooding.Repeated flooding is an environmental justice issue for both urban and rural communities, but rural communities need rural solutions when confronting natural disasters and associated recovery efforts, as detailed in our call to action, Through Natural Disaster to Prosperity.The drivers of repeated flooding in rural communities are complex, including climate, unsustainable approaches to development, and structural inequity. Still, rural people across the country are working diligently and creatively on home-grown solutions.The communities and organizations profiled in this case study are all working hard to address the causes and conditions contributing to flooding in their areas, as well as to envision and build thriving futures of equitable rural prosperity.They generously shared their thoughts, focusing on two key questions:What structural challenges keep rural communities from addressing repeated flooding?What will it take for rural communities to drive their own solutions to repeated flooding?

Beyond Compliance: Preliminary Findings from an Investigation of Climate and Flooding Data Systems in the United States

December 6, 2023

Government agencies and researchers in the United States have collected and shared environmental and climate data for decades in an effort to understand how climate change is impacting our communities, infrastructures, industries, and ecosystems. Much of this data is open in theory; many datasets maintained by federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are required to make their data publicly available and usable.But large gaps in available data and granularity issues prevent meaningful public use. Other sources—municipal governments, university researchers, and community data collection projects—can help fill data gaps. Still, these sources face their own challenges, such as unclear licensing agreements, limited resources or technical capacity, as well as equity concerns (including data collection procedures that result in poorer quality data regarding low income neighborhoods).Modernizing this data infrastructure, as well as channels for integrating information from different sources, can support actors both within and outside of government to use this wealth of data for a variety of purposes.As part of the larger Beyond Compliance initiative, which aims to make government-derived environmental data more accessible and usable to a diversity of users and for a range of purposes, we are investigating challenges and opportunities related to data in the context of climate change resilience and adaptation planning.

This is Planet Ed: School Board Member Climate Action Toolkit

December 6, 2023

This toolkit, developed in partnership with UndauntedK12, School Board Partners, and This is Planet Ed, an initiative of the Aspen Institute Energy & Environment Program, supports school board members to understand their role in driving meaningful climate solutions. School board members can collaborate with district leaders, youth, and community leaders to pass resolutions and develop climate action plans for their districts. These local K-12 climate action plans, similar to those embraced by city governments, utilize community needs and strengths as guiding principles for schools. These plans enable educational institutions to:Reduce Climate Pollution: Implement strategies to decrease the pollution harming our health and driving climate change.Prepare for Climate Impacts: Develop greater resilience against the challenges posed by climate change.Educate Students: Educate students about climate change, climate solutions and inspire action.Advance Equity: Prioritize communities that are most impacted by climate change and are at the center of decisions and schools.

How climate risk data can help communities become more resilient: Insights from San Diego

December 4, 2023

Governments at all levels have a responsibility to help communities adapt to increasing climate risks. Local governments are on the front lines, as they regulate and incentivize the location of new housing and commercial development, develop and operate transportation and water infrastructure, and oversee emergency preparedness and response. The rapidly growing field of climate analytics can help local governments adopt a more proactive approach by identifying risks, developing climate action plans, and implementing strategies that limit the harms of both chronic and acute climate stresses, from intense storms to wildfires to extreme heat.The goal of this project is to illustrate how local governments can use geographically granular climate risk data to map local hazards and plan community-based adaptation strategies, while highlighting some of the challenges in working with this data. We also discuss areas where regional, state, and federal agencies can support their local colleagues in these efforts. This analysis is intended to be useful for local governments—including elected officials and career staff—as well as utilities, regional planning agencies, private sector firms, and civic organizations engaged with built environment planning.To illustrate the potential uses and challenges of geographically granular climate risk information, we analyze data created by First Street Foundation that measures heat, wildfire, and flood risk. Focusing on the city of San Diego, we create risk maps at several levels of geography—city, neighborhood, and parcel—to illustrate how risk varies across geography, over time, and by climate risk category. These metrics primarily capture physical risk; when possible, we look at overlaps with social and economic characteristics that affect community vulnerability. Case studies of three neighborhoods with particularly high risks show the usefulness—and some cautions—of parcel-level analysis.

2023 Annual Report

December 1, 2023

To meet this moment and guided by our ambitious 2021-2024 strategic plan, ACE has leveled up every aspect of our work at the nexus of young people, strategic digital communications, policy advocacy, and civic engagement. With your support over the course of 2023, we have:Scaled the ACE Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Accelerator to engage and persuade 25 million of the hardest to reach communities (e.g. rural, conservative and moderate) to see decarbonization as a benefit to them.Inoculated 99 million Americans from Big Oil's $1 billion disinformation machine through our award-winning climate education and strategic digital media initiatives.Grew our Youth Action Network to over 1.1 million young advocates who took hundreds of thousands of actions to advance key climate policies and to expand the electorate with a new wave of diverse youth voters.Mobilized hundreds of thousands of voters to turn out in down ballot races. 

Funding trends 2023: Climate change mitigation philanthropy

November 8, 2023

In 2022, the amount of philanthropic funding for climate change mitigation remained essentially unchanged from the previous year — a slowdown from the consistent growth we saw in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Climate giving showed some resilience in 2022 despite challenging global economic conditions, but ultimately fell short of the scale needed to address the crisis. In this decisive moment for the planet, philanthropy must rapidly raise its ambition for advancing transformative climate solutions — in partnership with a wider range of communities, movements, and organizations — and move more funds faster to the places that need them most.

Flourishing Children, Healthy Communities, and a Stronger Nation: The U.S. Early Years Climate Action Plan

October 16, 2023

This report outlines the impacts of climate change on young children, prenatal to age 8, and the solutions we can all advance across society to support them.The Action Plan recommends ways that federal, state, and local policymakers, as well as early years providers, philanthropic funders, business leaders, and researchers can support children and their families, child- and family-programs, and local communities in a changing climate.

Forging Climate Solutions: How to Accelerate Action Across America

October 16, 2023

Momentum is growing for action on climate change. But actual shifts in U.S. investment and policy have been erratic, failing to address the needs of communities that will be hardest hit by climate change. American climate policy lacks a broad, durable commitment to maintain and accelerate progress. Despite significant advances, including recent federal legislation, there remains much more to be done—in Washington and across the nation.The nonpartisan Commission on Accelerating Climate Action of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has articulated how we can forge a whole-of-society commitment to addressing climate change. Its thirty-one members come from across the country, with expertise in industry, government, academia, and the arts to craft an approach for the whole of America.The Commission articulates a "fair bargain" on climate change. Anchored in the principles of justice, pragmatism, and accountability, our approach is not to highlight any one policy but to outline the totality of the required effort.As efforts become more visible and create new industries and opportunities, the political support needed to accelerate that action will grow. Challenges that are complex and daunting today will become more manageable with experience. Ultimately, these recommendations create a strategy for building and maintaining a broad, durable coalition for accelerated action that reduces emissions, promotes adaptation, and advances the interests of frontline communities.

Beyond Rebuilding: Planning for Better Managed Retreat

October 11, 2023

Climate impacts such as sea-level rise, extreme heat and drought, and sudden natural disasters could force over 20 million Americans to permanently leave their homes by 2100. The planned relocation of climate-vulnerable residents is known as "managed retreat," and it is most commonly pursued through post-disaster buyouts. After a natural disaster damages or destroys a home, local governments may choose to offer homeowners the pre-disaster, fair-market value of their house to move away, rather than rebuild. Over the last 40 years, municipalities have relocated nearly 50,000 American households in this manner at a cost of $3.5 billion, typically a few homes at a time.At this rate of buyouts, it would take thousands of years to help all at-risk American homeowners and their households move to safety. Of course, the U.S. does not have that luxury, as the ocean is already encroaching upon entire towns. Either the government must step up to more efficiently relocate such communities en masse, or property owners will eventually be forced to abandon their homes, likely at a near-total financial loss.The U.S. needs an ambitious plan to support millions of Americans to steadily relocate in the coming decades in a way that is financially feasible, community-led, and socioeconomically equitable. The federal government, local partners, and the private sector must collaborate to (1) limit further population inflows to climate-vulnerable areas; (2) incentivize at-risk residents to move to safer ground on their own accord; and (3) proactively plan and implement buyouts at scale.

Disasters and the rental housing community: Setting a research and policy agenda

October 5, 2023

The nation's system for managing disasters is broken. Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and related emergencies caused by increasingly severe and frequent effects from fossil-fuel-induced global climate change can have massive health and financial consequences for communities. Our current disaster management system relies on local, state, and—increasingly—federal resources to support disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts before a disaster; provide evacuation, safety, and relief during; and support rebuilding and recovery after. Yet gaps in public responses to disasters hold especially true for renters, rental properties, and rental housing stakeholders. Renter conditions—the availability, affordability, and quality of rental housing units throughout this timeframe—are a key indicator of climate and disaster vulnerability. And despite renters accounting for over one-third of U.S. households, funding and programming across all disaster stages still disproportionately serve single-family homeowners.There have been calls for "disaster justice" over the last decade, often as an offspring of environmental and housing activism. But equitable disaster processes, outputs, and outcomes have remained poorly defined. To ensure that renters' voices are at the center of any policy or evidence-building agendas, scholars and policy analysts affiliated with the Brookings Institution and Enterprise Community Partners—with generous support from the Walmart Foundation—developed an overview of the key challenges in practice, policy, and evidence on the subject of renters and the disaster continuum, from hazard relief and response through recovery to longer-term hazard mitigation and resilience. The team also hosted a full-day, invitation-only convening of local grassroots tenant organizations, rental housing providers, and regional housing advocates at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. on July 20, 2023, to answer the question: How can tenants and landlords be better served in programs across the public disaster management system?We approach this challenge comprehensively, starting by including renters at the table. We center renters' perspectives, incorporating their lived experiences into the evidence base when making recommendations about policy that affects their lives. Drawing on this experience, along with additional research, we offer recommendations for tweaks and transformations to practices among local civic organizations, disaster and housing service providers, and responsible government agencies to center the renters who form a significant portion of their resident and survivor populations. These recommendations include: 1) universal renter protections; 2) the prioritization of low-income renters of all kinds in all disaster programs; and 3) requirements for state and local governments to enforce tenant protections and support tenants and rental housing in exchange for access to federal disaster funding. This document narrates the preliminary research and agenda-setting developed for the convening, describes the convening's multiple conversations, and outlines recommendations drawn from workshop participants for improving policy and research.