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Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Rising Seas, Climate Equity Part 1



How Climate Change is Impacting Low-Income Communities


[01:56] Rachel Cleetus is introduced.

[02:20] Rachel shares her background.

[02:54] Rachel mentions what motivates her to do the work that she does.

[03:44] Rachel defines the term “climate change.”

[05:13] Rachel describes “climate equity” and “climate justice.”

[06:38] Rachel differentiates between climate equity and climate justice.

[07:46] Rachel explains the concept and some of the major findings in the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)’s “Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Rising Seas” report (find the report in the Resources below!).

[11:05] Rachel tells us about the case studies mentioned in the report, specifically Dorchester County in Maryland.

[13:57] Rachel shares where people can go to learn more about the report.

[14:55] Rachel shares what the phrase “resilient communities” means to her.

[16:52] Rachel explains some of the biggest barriers to enabling vulnerable communities to become more resilient in the face of climate-related disasters, and what preventative measures people can take.

[21:10] Rachel gives her thoughts on how other areas in the world impacted by weather can be more resilient with support from the U.S. and other neighboring nations.

[24:14] Rachel conveys what communities and local governments can do to make themselves better prepared to withstand or recover from climate impacts.

[28:57] Rachel provides one change that would lead to more resilient, more sustainable, and more equitable communities.

[29:19] Rachel states the action listeners can take to help build a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable future.

[30:03] Rachel shares what our coastal communities will look like 30 years from now.


Rachel Cleetus is the lead economist and climate policy manager with the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). She designs and advocates for effective global warming policies at the federal, regional, state, and international levels. These policies include market -based approaches (such as cap-and-trade programs) and complementary, sector-based approaches (such as efficiency, renewable energy, and clean technology research and development). She also analyzes the economic costs of inaction on climate change.

Prior to joining UCS, Dr. Cleetus worked as a consultant for the World Wildlife Fund, performing policy-focused research on the links between sustainable development, trade, and ecosystems in Asia and Africa. She also worked for Tellus Institute in the energy and environment program, under the mentorship of Steve Bernow. Dr. Cleetus holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in economics from Duke University and a B.S. in economics from West Virginia University.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

Learn More about Rachel and the Union of Concerned Scientists


“For me, climate change is one of the biggest threats we face as humanity, and it’s touching every aspect of our life. It’s not just an environmental problem; it is an economic problem, it’s a social problem, it’s a justice issue, because the impacts are already playing out around the world, and they are disproportionately affecting communities of color and low-income communities. So, for me, this work has always been about how do we make a better future for our kids and grandkids, and how do we do it in a way that’s inclusive, that brings people in to work towards a common purpose.”

“Climate change, as we all know, is something that—the climate change we’re experiencing right now is human caused. It’s primarily a result of carbon emissions from our burning of fossil fuels as well as cutting down tropical forests. These carbon emissions are accumulating in our atmosphere, and they’re creating a heat-trapping blanket, essentially, around the earth, and that’s making global average temperatures increase. We are seeing record impacts because of these temperature increases, and those impacts include changes in precipitation patterns. For example, we get these extreme rainfall events that cause flooding, we get heat waves, we get drought, we get wildfires. We’re seeing sea levels rising around the world, and here in the U.S., on the East Coast, we have some of the highest levels of sea-level rise globally that have been experienced.”

“We know that poorer communities, people who have fewer resources, are more extremely affected when extreme events happen. They’re disproportionately affected, and their ability to bounce back from these kind of events is also compromised because of the fact that they have fewer resources.”

“We have to make sure that our policy makers at every level of government are making policies on the basis of science. That just has to be a threshold of how we can do better going forward. We are almost unique in the global community to be still disputing the reality of climate change. It’s long past time to move beyond that.”


Union of Concerned Scientists

Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Rising Seas (2015) –Union of Concerned Scientists

Climate Resiliency Toolkit


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