10 Incredible Moments in 2015: A Landmark Year in Climate Action
We've really been on a roll this year.
And when I say we I don't just mean 350.org the organization. I mean this big, broad movement we've built together—you, me, 350’s many partner organizations, the hundreds of local groups we work with every day and all the many individuals around the world who take action in ways large and small.
This was such a landmark year that we had a really hard time picking just 10 things for the list below. In fact, it really seems like we're getting close to a sort of climate-action tipping point.
Of course, we're not kidding ourselves into thinking that the fossil fuel industry is going to sit back and let it all happen. (In fact, the Secretary-General of Europe's coal lobby recently accused the European Commission of being “in cahoots with protest movements” and called for the creation of a "less ambitious" climate plan in 2016).
People and companies that benefit from the status quo will pull us backwards if we let them—so we can't let them. Can you help us continue this fight in 2016?
Next year, we're taking on the fossil fuel industry more directly than ever, as well as keeping the pressure on world governments to "close the gap" between the commitments they made in Paris and what the science actually says the world needs. I think next year is going to be at least as amazing as this one.
For now, because everyone loves a good list, here are the top 10 amazing things we did together in 2015 (in no particular order):
1. We Showed That We Are Greater Than Tar Sands
Throughout North America, the fight to stop the Canadian tar sands reached a fever pitch this year. Led by First Nations and other Indigenous groups and backed up by farmers, ranchers, labor unions and organizers in every corner of the continent, this movement stalled pipelines, called out hypocrisy and took to the streets for events like Toronto’s "March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate" and a “Climate Welcome” for new Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.
2. We Made Fracking a Contentious Political Issue in Brazil
The campaign to ban fracking in Brazil heated up big time—to the point that organizers started to feel some serious pressure from industry and the government. From interrupting a fracking auction with Indigenous voices to sparking protests at Brazilian embassies around the world, our team in Brazil is causing a stir.
3. We Shut Down One of the Biggest Coal Mines in Europe
To be fair, it was just for a day ... but nobody’s stopping there. The "Ende Gelände" action—translated as "here and no further"—was organized by grassroots climate activists to shut down the Garzweiler lignite mine in Germany. Most of the 1,500 people who participated in this epic act of civil disobedience had never done anything like it before.
4. We Pulled the Rug Out from Under Australia’s Biggest Coal Project
Our friends at 350 Australia—along with a big coalition of partners—helped pressure more than 14 banks to pull funding from Adani’s proposed giant coal mine in the Galilee Basin.
5. We Pushed California to Divest the U.S.' Second Largest Pension Fund
Divestment activists in California worked hard to pass a precedent-setting bill to divest the state’s two huge pension funds from coal, which together total half a trillion dollars. Up next: working even harder to divest from all fossil fuels.
6. We Called Out One the Richest, Most Powerful Corporations on the Planet
They really deserved it. After the revelations earlier this year that Exxon knew about the impacts of climate change nearly 40 years ago, we shone a spotlight on their criminal campaign of deception and denial. Along with many of our partners and allies, we’ve asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate Exxon for their cover-up. And we’re going to keep pressing.
7. We Mobilized Against "Free Trade" Agreements that Consolidate Corporate Power
From the U.S. to the Philippines, we stood strong against "free trade" agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Agreements like these are often negotiated in secret and put corporate interests over people's well-being.
8. We Raised the Bar on Divestment Commitments—to $3.4 Trillion (and Counting!)
2015 was a great year for the fossil fuel divestment movement. Global Divestment Day in February saw hundreds of events around the world, students escalated their campaigns on campus throughout the early part of the year and a snowballing of divestment commitments ahead of the Paris climate summit brought the new count to $3.4 trillion in managed assets committed to divestment.
9. We Stopped the Keystone XL Pipeline
President Obama may have struck the final blow, but it was the climate movement that stopped the world’s most notorious pipeline. When we started fighting this thing, they said it was a done deal. It was a long, hard fight, but it was worth it. Let that be a lesson to all the pipeline builders, coal financiers and frackers of the world: Don’t bet against the climate movement. We’re playing for keeps.
10. We Helped Make the Paris Climate Agreement Happen
The Paris climate agreement doesn’t get us where the world needs to be. But we have a deal and that’s extraordinary. Although our plans had to change following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November, the climate movement really came together before and during the big summit—for the Global Climate March on Nov. 29, which brought 775,000 people into the streets in more than 2,300 places around the world and for the final mobilization in Paris at the end of the talks. Now it’s up to us to close the gap between the rhetoric of the deal and the reality of this crisis. And we’re ready.
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By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
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