Climate change functions as a “threat multiplier” – increasing individuals’ exposure and sensitivity to extreme weather, flooding, sea level rise, and extreme heat, thus reducing their capacity to respond to future climate impacts. This multiplier effect is particularly burdensome for, and at times disproportionately borne by frontline communities, which include people of color, individuals with low wealth or limited income, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, youth, incarcerated individuals, and others. Individuals with multiple vulnerability factors such as being a person of color, a non-English speaker, or low-income, experience cascading climate impacts more acutely.
To create equitable climate solutions and advance social equity, local governments must understand how existing policies and processes are explicitly and implicitly biased to certain populations. By understanding the implications of climate threats and solutions for all members of the community, and encouraging authentic dialogue with groups made vulnerable to climate change, local governments can create effective policies and practices that equally distribute benefits and burdens, build resilience and trust, and promote additional community-wide co-benefits.