Climate change is impacting everyone, but its ongoing effects threaten the lives and livelihoods of some people more than others. According to the 2022 United Nations climate change report, 40 percent of the world’s population is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, meaning their physical and mental health is already affected by climate-related diseases and extreme natural events.
The report is just one of many clarion calls to act urgently, not just on climate change but also on climate justice: the process of finding solutions to climate change that also address social inequities due to gender, race, ethnicity, geography, income, and other factors. Acting on climate justice is important, because social inequities increase the severity of the risks and costs that vulnerable people face as a result of climate change. They also diminish people’s ability to participate in opportunities that will accompany the world’s transition to a lower-carbon, more resource-efficient, and more socially inclusive green economy.
In recent years, the approach has gained traction and found its way onto more political and legal agendas. Climate justice was included in the 2015 Paris Agreement, for example, and the United Nations declared access to a clean and healthy environment as a human right in July 2022. And while the term didn’t appear at all in global media publications in 2001, it now appears in the media up to 5,000 times a year.
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