We are moving into an era in which the impacts of climate change will likely increase significantly as all of the meteorological factors accelerate (glacial meltwater, rising seas, more water in the atmosphere, leading to bigger storms, floods in some places, droughts in others, and heat!). And we will see greater impacts on certain people: those with fewer resources, those who live in the most dangerous locations for climate impacts, and those who are least responsible for climate change.

Climate justice is an ethical and moral issue. It’s not a scientific or technical solution to climate change (those are, of course, needed), but it is the moral and human part of climate change. Climate justice advocates say, “Wait a minute! It’s bad enough that climate change is happening, but the impacts of it are way worse for certain communities, depending on where they live! That is not right!”

Because of that, one of the goals of climate justice advocates is to try to develop ways to reduce the disproportionate impacts of climate change as much as possible. This could mean more government funding for heat relief projects, potential relocation of people in danger of flooding, funding for improving energy efficiency, investment in inclusive disaster relief planning, etc. This is one of the things 350 Wisconsin is pursuing, trying to get a better understanding of the people and communities in Wisconsin who are most likely to be most heavily, and disproportionately, impacted by climate change.

So, it is exciting that the Biden administration, through the interagency National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), has announced the release of HEAT.gov, a new website to provide the public and decision makers with clear, timely, and science-based information to understand and reduce the health risks of extreme heat. Check it out! One of the tools on the website overlays NOAA-projected heat events with the CDC Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), which uses U.S. Census data to determine the social vulnerability of every county. The SVI ranks each county on 15 social factors, including poverty, lack of vehicle access, and crowded housing, and groups them into four related themes.

We hope to analyze the data on this website to identify communities in Wisconsin that are facing the most severe impacts of heatwaves. If this type of analysis interests you, contact Nikki Darga, our 350 Wisconsin volunteer coordinator, and she will connect you with the Climate Justice Team.

Another goal of climate justice advocates is to include and uplift the voices of those who aren’t normally included in the political process. Members of the 350 Wisconsin Climate Justice Team are reaching out to social justice organizations in Wisconsin. We want to better understand the social justice issues underlying the disproportionate impacts of climate change around the state. Then we hope to work with those groups to form a powerful political movement for both climate action and social justice (i.e., climate justice). If you know of social justice groups around the state that might be interested in collaborating, please have them reach out to Marian Fredal, the 350 Wisconsin Climate Justice Team lead.