This is part four of the Climate Education 101 Series, designed to jump start your understanding of the climate crisis. Browse the full catalog here.

By now, you know what climate change is. (Confused? Start here.) You even understand carbon’s role on the planet and how it can warm the atmosphere. (Not sure how that works? Click here.) But perhaps one of the most important questions is, “how does the climate crisis affect me?”

Before we get to that, let’s start with the basics.

Who is affected by the climate crisis?

Everyone. From the wealthiest person in the world to the hermit in the mountains, every single human on Earth is affected by the climate crisis. By living on this planet, we are subject to its changes. Therefore, it’s not a question of who or if, but of how.

How am I affected by the climate crisis?

How much the climate crisis affects our daily lives depends on a lot of factors—the country you live in, where you live in that country, your race and ethnicity (both who you are and how you are perceived), the amount of wealth you have, disabilities you may have, your relationship with the land, your age, and much more.

Generally speaking, the most obvious impacts we will face are catastrophic and record-breaking natural disasters: flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, and wildfires to name a few. These often create ripple effects that can be felt miles away from the disaster’s epicenter.

For example: what does warming ocean water have to do with blue baby syndrome? Warm ocean waters create intense hurricanes, like Hurricane Florence. When it rolled over North Carolina, it caused pig manure lagoons to overflow, which polluted waterways and leached into well water. In the past, this has led to blue baby syndrome, mass fish die-offs, and damages to the shellfish industry.

NASA satellite image of the North Carolina coast. Pollution from pig manure lagoons and other sediments discolor the ocean.

Who is most at risk?

The short answer: low income communities and people of color. In the US, this includes—but is not exclusive to—the rural poor, Indigenous peoples, Latinx peoples, African Americans, as well as Asian and Pacific Islander peoples. These groups are most at risk because they have been neglected and/or targeted by past policies that make them more vulnerable to climate change effects. You may hear these groups referred to as “frontline communities” because they are the first and hardest hit.

A prime example of this is Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana. More than 98 percent of Isle de Jean Charles has succumbed to the Gulf of Mexico. A handful of houses remain; the church is gone, the grocery store is gone, and the only road connecting the island to the mainland floods frequently. Most of the residents are Native Americans of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, who were forced here in the 1830’s after the Indian Removal Act. These people are America’s first climate refugees—a term used to describe people that must flee their homes due to climate-related disasters.

A side-by-side image of Isle de Jean Charles in 1963 and 2008 to illustrate how much of the land is now underwater.

Does the climate crisis affect other issues?

It does—the climate crisis exacerbates many existing social and environmental justice issues. From immigration to public health, the climate crisis will worsen current issues if left unchecked. Below are a few examples:

World hunger and the climate crisis

Infectious diseases and the climate crisis

Incarceration and the climate crisis

Gender violence and the climate crisis

Trans rights and the climate crisis

Housing and the climate crisis

Indigenous rights and the climate crisis

Migration and the climate crisis*

*Readers: if you have other examples you want seen here, or know of better resources, email them to me at hello@marymeade.eco and I will add them.

In Kiribati, an island republic in the Central Pacific, large parts of the village Eita have succumbed to flooding from the sea. Via NPR article. Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Just as the climate crisis is a worldwide issue, how we respond to it will have far-reaching ripple effects. That is why it is so important for climate solutions to consider many factors and get buy-in from the community it affects.

Previously: The Lowdown on Carbon

Up Next: Let’s Talk Climate

If you found this helpful, feel free to buy me a coffee to fuel the next blog. Venmo: @Mary_Meade

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