Bending the Curve and Closing the Gap

Forman, F et al 2016 Chapter 8. Bending the Curve and Closing the Gap:
Climate Justice and Public Health. Collabra, 2(1): 22, pp. 1–17, DOI: http://
• Climate change will cause unprecedented harm to
human populations, with the greatest burden falling
on children, the elderly, those with underlying illnesses, and the poor, particularly poor women.
• Climate Change will disproportionately affect low
income countries, especially their coastal cities, and
will also disproportionately affect poorer people
within wealthier countries.
• Technological and policy solutions to climate change
must be combined with policy changes and innovative approaches to changing social attitudes and
• Technology can work to address climate change
only if people in countries that produce most of the
greenhouse gases also shift to low-carbon behavior
• Many of the necessary changes to reduce greenhouse
gases will also result in improvements to public
health and greater social justice.
• Reducing industrial carbon emissions can bring
co-benefits of reduced air pollution, while better
public transportation and increased urban density
can improve mobility and promote physical activity
in communities.
• Using revenue from the sale of carbon credits or
from a carbon tax to fund greenhouse gas reduction programs in disadvantaged communities is a
way of maximizing climate, health, and social justice
• Shifts in production away from cattle and an emphasis on production of plant proteins will dramatically reduce methane production from agriculture
while reducing deforestation and air and water pollution and increasing the availability of healthier
• Climate education and participatory climate action
in underserved urban communities contributes to
producing healthier, more equitable, climate-friendly
cities. Social and multimedia networking can tie local
efforts together at larger regional and global scales
to create meaningful reductions in greenhouse gases.
• Greater connectivity among civil society organizations, religious organizations, scientists and universities, at local and global scales, can enhance the adoption of new technologies, and develop new capacities
for climate action and social innovation.
Today. . . . we have to realize that a true ecological
approach always becomes a social approach; it must
integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and
the cry of the poor.
—Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter
Chapter 8. Bending the Curve and Closing the Gap:
Climate Justice and Public Health
Fonna Forman*
, Gina Solomon†
, Rachel Morello-Frosch‡
and Keith Pezzoli§
Climate change is projected to cause widespread and serious harm to public health and the environment
upon which life depends, unraveling many of the health and social gains of the last century. The burden of
harm will fall disproportionately on the poorest communities, both in the U.S. and globally, raising urgent
issues of “climate justice”. In contrast, strategies for climate action, including those of an institutional,
and cultural nature, have the potential to improve quality of life for everyone. This chapter examines the
social dimensions of building carbon neutral societies, with an emphasis on producing behavioral shifts,
among both the most and the least advantaged populations. In support of Bending the Curve solutions 2
and 3, the case studies offered in this chapter rely not only on innovations in technology and policy, but
innovations in attitudinal and behavioral change as well, focused on coordinated public communication
and education (Solution 2), as well as new platforms for collaborating, where leaders across sectors can
convene to tackle concrete problems (Solution 3).
* Department of Political Science, UC San Diego, US
† Department of Medicine, UC San Francisco; California EPA, US
‡ Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management,
UC Berkeley, US
§ Urban Studies and Planning Program and Department of
Communication, UC San Diego, US
Corresponding author: Fonna Forman ([email protected])
Art. 22, page 2 of 17 Forman et al: Chapter 8. Bending the Curve and Closing the Gap
Climate change is projected to cause widespread and serious harm to public health and the environment upon
which life depends, unraveling many of the health and
social gains of the last century. Unprecedented heat
waves, drought, extreme storms, poor air quality, floods
and wildfires are all linked to climate change. These conditions pose potentially serious health impacts including
heat stress, dehydration, injuries, allergy, exacerbations of
asthma and cardiac disease, hunger, social, psychological
and economic strife. The health effects of climate change
are already occurring, and are predicted to become devastating by mid-century if significant greenhouse gas reductions do not occur. The burden of harm will fall disproportionately on the poorest communities, both in the U.S.
and globally, raising urgent issues of “climate justice”. In
contrast, strategies for climate action, including those of
an institutional, and cultural nature, have the potential to
improve quality of life for everyone.
Climate change is driven by interacting factors, including: harmful technologies, short-sighted public and
economic policy, unsustainable land use patterns, and
destructive human behaviors. Climate justice entails giving
special attention to correcting patterns of disproportionate responsibilities and harms. The top 1 billion residents
of the planet are accountable for the bulk of greenhouse
gas emissions. In contrast, the billions of people living
in poverty globally are the ones most affected by these
emissions. This double disparity represents a “climate gap”
between rich and poor, which must be closed if we hope
to bend the curve of climate change. Wealthy countries,
regions, and industries must bear primary responsibility
for mitigating the harms and urgently mobilizing a lowcarbon global economy.
This chapter examines the social dimensions of building carbon neutral societies, with an emphasis on producing behavioral shifts, among both the most and the
least advantaged populations. In support of Bending
the Curve solutions 2 and 3, the case studies offered in
this chapter rely not only on innovations in technology
and policy, but innovations in attitudinal and behavioral change as well, focused on coordinated public communication and education (Solution 2), as well as new
platforms for collaborating, where leaders across sectors
can convene to tackle concrete problems (Solution 3).
A focus on behavior is both an ethical and a practical
matter: all the best technologies and policy in the world,
all the best top-down intentions and investment, will
not make a dent until people are educated and ready to
adopt new technologies, and adapt their practices to new
This chapter also recommends rethinking the way we
design our built environment and its relationship to
broader ecological environments, and assessing the ethical responsibility for developing low-carbon, green economies in the poorest regions of the world. We highlight
actionable strategies already underway in urban, agricultural and rural settings in California and globally, to demonstrate that it is possible to mitigate carbon emissions
while maximizing public health and social equity.
Adopting effective strategies, however, requires a widespread and pervasive cultural shift in our attitudes about
a lower carbon lifestyle, especially in developed and rapidly developing economies. Some people worry that a lowcarbon lifestyle will lead to lower quality of life, but the
opposite is true, at least for most people. A high-carbon
lifestyle, in addition to consuming a large portion of the
earth’s resources, is ultimately unhealthy and inequitable. A high-carbon lifestyle is associated with obesity,
metabolic syndrome, respiratory disease, and cancer, even
among the wealthy. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
will bring significant dividends both for public health and
for social justice.
Climate Change and Health
Climate change will exacerbate numerous existing health
problems, magnifying challenges within health care systems globally. Increases in atmospheric heat will directly
lead to more extreme temperatures, and increases in
atmospheric heat energy will bring more extreme weather
events such as droughts, severe storms, and floods. Resulting direct and indirect health effects will include a predictable cascade of injuries and illnesses that will affect
millions, and disproportionately strike young children,
the elderly, the poor, and people with chronic underlying
health conditions [1]. The human and economic toll of
climate-related morbidity and mortality is expected to be
massive. The World Health Organization already estimates
that climate change is responsible for more than 250,000
deaths per year globally, and the numbers will rise dramatically in coming decades [2].
Heat waves, the most direct effect of global warming, cause large numbers of deaths and severe illnesses,
depending on the intensity and duration of the heat
event. Those most likely to die or require emergency hospitalization include the elderly, infants, pregnant women,
outdoor workers, outdoor athletes, people with a range of
underlying medical conditions, and poor people without
air conditioning living in urban areas [3]. Major increases
in deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits
have been documented to occur during heat waves, with
70,000 deaths reported in the 2003 European heat wave,
over 55,000 deaths in Russia in 2010, and thousands of
deaths in other heat waves worldwide [4]. In many developing countries, the impact from heat waves is unrecorded
because of the expense of clinics for most inhabitants and
the fact that there are often no reliable tracking systems
to measure increases in illnesses or deaths.
Even during a non-heat-wave period, there are documented associations between higher temperatures
and a range of morbidity, including respiratory disease,
emphysema, heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes,
renal failure, intestinal infections, heat stroke, dehydration, hypertension, and asthma [5]. For every increase
of temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit, there is a
nearly 9 percent increase in preterm births [6]. Research
has shown that surprisingly, people living in normally
cooler areas are more susceptible to health effects from
even modest temperature increases. During the 2006
Forman et al: Chapter 8. Bending the Curve and Closing the Gap Art. 22, page 3 of 17
California heat wave, the greatest increase in emergency
room visits occurred in the normally cooler coastal cities
[7]. This phenomenon is probably because fewer buildings are air conditioned in these areas, and people are less
physiologically adapted to heat. Additional air conditioning is required to counter-balance increased temperatures, thereby generating greenhouse gas emissions and
worsening the cycle. But most in the developing world
do not have air conditioning, leaving them with fewer
options as the planet warms.
Increased heat also has numerous secondary effects.
Heat speeds the atmospheric conversion of vehicle tailpipe emissions into ozone smog. Thus the health threat on
hot days stems both from heat itself and from increased
ozone levels that cause respiratory and cardiac damage [8]. Fires, also associated with heat and drought, emit
large quantities of respirable particulate matter in addition to significant carbon release [9]. Particulate matter
causes respiratory and vascular inflammation, respiratory
and cardiovascular illness, and increased mortality [10].
Even if the fires are remote, winds may move respirable
particulate matter into urbanized areas. Fires have been
an increasingly significant issue in the U.S. and in many
countries, such as Indonesia, in recent years.
Warmer weather conditions with higher concentrations
of carbon dioxide in the air also foster the earlier and
longer bloom of allergenic weeds such as ragweed [11].
Studies done in greenhouses have shown that instilling air
slightly enriched in CO2
dramatically increases the amount
of pollen produced from individual ragweed plants [12].
These findings suggest increasing health challenges associated with nuisance symptoms such as hay fever, as well
as more serious conditions such as asthma.
Although it is difficult to pin any single weather event
to climate change, the climate models demonstrate that
extreme weather fluctuations are increasingly likely to
occur as the earth warms [13]. For example, rain is likely
to fall in larger amounts when it does occur, leading to
increased risk of flooding and erosion. Flooding can cause
numerous drownings, injuries, and destruction of homes
and property. After floods, mold is a well-known hazard
that invades homes and can cause serious respiratory illness in those returning to the area [14]. Erosion causes
topsoil loss, a major concern in many poor agricultural
regions where crops and livelihoods can be destroyed by
a single storm, and re-planting can be hindered by loss
of fertile soil. Areas impacted by wildfires are denuded of
ground cover and are therefore especially vulnerable to
erosion and soil loss. In addition to ecological harm, storm
runoff can cause illness and death, for instance when contaminated runoff spills into surface water sources and
contaminates drinking water supplies [15].
Extreme rainfall events also increase runoff into lakes
and coastal waters, where the nutrients from the soil
and warmer waters foster explosions of harmful algal
blooms. These blooms can make it dangerous to swim, or
consume fish or shellfish from affected waters [16]. They
are also devastating to ecosystems and wildlife, including
marine mammals, resulting in mass mortality. Pathogenic
bacteria can also thrive in warmer waters offshore. Vibrio
species, including cholera, thrive in warm contaminated
waters and lead to major outbreaks of gastrointestinal
disease either through direct contact with water or from
consumption of contaminated shellfish. Cholera has been
increasing steadily since 2005 worldwide [17]. An outbreak of Vibrio parahemolyticus on a cruise ship in Alaska
in 2004 was traced to locally-harvested contaminated oysters. That year was the first year that ocean temperatures
did not drop low enough in Alaska to kill the organism.
The authors concluded that warming oceans may cause
outbreaks of serious gastrointestinal illnesses in coastal
areas not previously affected [18].
Ponding of stagnant water, in warm conditions, creates conditions ideal for the lifecycle of numerous pests
including the mosquitoes that carry diseases ranging
from malaria and yellow fever to Zika, dengue fever and
chikungunya [19]. These viral fevers have all been shifting in recent years to more temperate countries where
they did not previously occur, including further north
in the Americas and into Europe and the United States;
the dramatic spread of Zika virus in 2015–2016 through
South and Central America, with resulting birth defects
and paralytic Guillain-Barre syndrome, grabbed headlines
worldwide. Further shifts of vector-borne diseases are predicted with climate change [20]. Diseases not pathogenic
to humans can also cause devastation to human populations. Pests can wipe out entire crops when they are inadvertently introduced to a new area through global trade.
As temperate climates warm, pests that did not previously
survive the winters are able to thrive year-round [21]. New
pest pressures increase the use of toxic pesticides, and the
risk of crop losses.
Ultimately, coastal areas will be inundated due to sea
level rise, while other areas face increasing challenges
from drought-associated food and water shortages;
many areas will encounter riverine flooding, outbreaks
of vector-borne disease, and increased agricultural pestpressures resulting in crop losses [22]. All of these events
can lead to increased conflicts over remaining resources,
population displacement, an over-strained health system
from both physical and mental illnesses, and social disruption. Experience from such events both in the United
States and globally, has shown that the people most likely
to suffer and die include the poorest segments of society,
the very young, the elderly, and those with preexisting
medical conditions [22].
The Carbon Economy and Health
The many health effects of climate change described
above are well-recognized by numerous health and medical organizations. Such discussions, however, often do not
describe the health effects of our current high-carbon
lifestyle. Three principal aspects of the carbon economy
contribute significantly to ill health: excessive driving,
overconsumption of processed foods and meat, and fossil
fuel pollution.
Many developed countries, and segments of developing countries, are experiencing an obesity epidemic.
Art. 22, page 4 of 17 Forman et al: Chapter 8. Bending the Curve and Closing the Gap
This is particularly true in the United States. Obesity is a
major risk factor for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and
cardiovascular disease. Although obesity is multifactorial,
it is largely due to a combination of insufficient physical
activity and excessive calorie consumption. Communities
where people largely drive cars tend to be associated with
higher rates of obesity, whereas walkable, bikeable communities with public transit promote greater physical
activity and reduced rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome
and related diseases.
Overconsumption of calories is a direct use of global
resources, and when those calories come from processed
foods or from meat, the carbon intensity is even greater.
Climate impacts associated with foods are discussed in
more detail below. Over-nutrition is a known public health
problem, and diets that include too much meat or processed foods are associated with cancer and heart disease.
In addition to these contributions to obesity and ill
health, the use of fossil fuel feedstocks results in an enormous pollution problem globally, with associated direct
health effects.
Emissions associated with fossil fuels are linked to
health hazards from the extraction phase, through transportation, processing and ultimate combustion. For example, mining of coal or oil-sands or extraction of oil and
gas is associated with occupational injuries and illnesses
as well as the potential for significant contamination of
drinking water resources and air emissions. Transportation
of petroleum by rail has caused catastrophic explosions
and fires in Quebec, Canada and elsewhere. Refineries are
often located in disadvantaged communities, where they
pose a threat from explosions, fires, and routine emissions. Ultimately, power plants, industries that use coal,
oil, or gas, and motor vehicles all contribute significantly
to ambient air pollution and ill health.
Climate Justice: Rethinking Responsibilities
and Harms
Climate change is caused disproportionately by the production and consumption habits of the world’s richest
populations. The richest 1 billion people on the planet are
responsible for about 50% of greenhouse gas emissions;
while the poorest 3 billion, without access to affordable
fossil fuels, are responsible for about 5% [23]. In contrast,
the bottom 3 billion suffer the greatest harms associated
with climate change. The vulnerability of the bottom
3 billion has already produced a nomadic underclass of
“climate refugees” susceptible to the perils of human trafficking, forced labor, and the degradations of urban poverty in cities and urban slums that are swelling at a rate of
77 million people each year.
Climate Justice demands that we recognize the imbalances between responsibilities and harms, and intervene
to correct them. Climate Justice is a subset of Global
Justice, which places an ethical imperative on the most
advantaged populations to improve conditions of the least
advantaged. The vast disparity between rich and poor,
dramatized by the gap between developed and undeveloped countries (and gaps within those countries as well)
is the most profound injustice of our age. The demands of
global justice become particularly acute when the advantage of a few is responsible for producing or aggravating
the deprivation of many. The causal linkages are deepened
by the unregulated activities of corporations in the developing world – privatizing and extracting natural capital,
deforestation, land-clearing, the dumping of waste, and
many other stressors on the natural world and social
Climate justice demands additionally that those least
responsible for climate change and yet most harmed by
it are not subjected to further deprivation in the transition toward low-carbon solutions. Disadvantaged people
are typically least capable of assuming the costs of adopting new technologies for mitigating climate change. For
example, the use of firewood, dung and crop residue in
cooking practices among the bottom 3 billion increases
the atmospheric concentration of black-carbon and particulate matter. But the poor are typically unable to bear
the costs of integrating cleaner-burning cooking technologies. Such costs should be borne by richer countries, for
the good of all.
Solutions to climate change should be designed to further the human rights and dignity of the least advantaged,
empowering individuals, promoting community agency
and self-reliance, reducing poverty, improving health and
overall quality of life [24]. Solutions must pay significant
attention to context and local needs rather than a onesize-fits-all package. For both ethical and practical reasons
implementation strategies must be participatory, integrating unique local knowledges, and particularly the voices of
women who typically bear the brunt of climate change in
disadvantaged communities. Climate justice actions also
need to be attuned to informal economies, and dynamics that fall outside conventional market frameworks. That
said, the reworking of market models, and emergence of
hybrid models has been an evolving area of policy and
practice [25, 26, 27, 28, 29].
Climate justice demands urgent intervention to reassert our global commitment to human rights and public
goods, and to posit a broader conception of self-interest
that includes the sustainability of human settlements on
our planet. Global decarbonization and equitable, sustainable development require urgent collective action across
sectors, mobilizing governments at every scale, the private
sector, international institutions, religious organizations,
research universities, non-profits and communities both
rich and poor.
Climate Justice in the United States and
Climate change is of great importance within the field of
environmental justice because of its overall consequences,
and its disparate impact on vulnerable and socially marginalized populations. Vulnerability to climate change is
determined by the ability of a community or household to
anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the direct
and indirect impacts of extreme weather events, degraded
ecosystems and shifts such as sea level rise, hurricanes and
Forman et al: Chapter 8. Bending the Curve and Closing the Gap Art. 22, page 5 of 17
floods, heat waves, air pollution, and infectious diseases.
While climate justice has a global dimension, the “climate
gap” refers to the ways in which climate change and climate change mitigation can disproportionately impact
certain groups within a society, such as people of color
and the poor [30], often groups that are least responsible
for greenhouse gas emissions [30, 31, 32].
Low-income urban communities and communities of
color in the US and California are especially vulnerable
to extreme weather events such as heat waves and higher
temperatures because they are often segregated in neighborhoods in inner cities that are more likely to experience
“heat-island” effects [33]. Heat-islands occur in urban
areas when lighter-colored (higher albedo) materials such
as grass, trees, and soil are replaced by darker-colored
(lower albedo) materials such as roads, buildings, parking
lots, and other surfaces, leading to increased absorption
of sunlight. This phenomenon decreases the dissipation
of heat, and increases warming [34]. A recent national
land cover analysis found persistent racial and ethnic
disparities in heat risk-related land cover characteristics
of neighborhoods, disparities that persisted even after
adjusting for biophysical factors that strongly influence
tree growth [35]. Studies indicate that technological adaptation is another critical extrinsic factor in heat-associated
health outcomes; lack of access to air conditioning is correlated with risks of heat-related morbidity and mortality among communities of color and low income groups,
as well as the urban elderly and disabled in the United
States [36]. One study using heat-wave data from Chicago,
Detroit, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh, found that African
Americans had a 5.3% higher prevalence of heat-related
mortality than Whites and that 64% of this disparity was
potentially attributable to disparities in prevalence of central air conditioner technologies [37].
Studies also indicate that communities of color and
the poor will likely suffer disproportionately from sea
level rise. A California Energy Commission study used a
sea level rise scenario based on medium to high greenhouse gas emissions from the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change, and estimated that a 1 to 1.4 meter
sea level rise would put 220,000–270,000 people at
risk of a 100-year flood event in the San Francisco Bay
Area, based on the current population. These sea level
rise scenarios are also predicted to disproportionately
impact communities of color and low income people
who live in some of the more low lying vulnerable
areas [38].
When extreme weather events lead to flooding, the
most disadvantaged populations are also the most likely
to die. For example, in Hurricane Katrina, the elderly, the
disabled, the poorest segments of the population, and
African Americans were least likely to have the means to
evacuate the city of New Orleans before the storm. The
greatest risk of death, property loss, and displacement fell
on the poor and on African American residents of New
Orleans, as shown in Table 1 [39].
Minority groups are also more highly impacted by the
fossil fuel industry from the point of production near
refineries to the points of emissions near power plants,
major roadways, ports, railyards and airports. Indeed, an
analysis of the demographic correlates of exposure to
particulate matter and nitrogen oxide pollution from
California power plants and petroleum refineries found
that minorities are more likely than non-Hispanic whites
to reside in close proximity to these facilities, even when
controlling for household income [42, 43].
Similarly, sprawl, a pattern of low-density development associated with concentrated poverty, racial residential segregation, and fragmented planning across
multiple municipalities [44] is causally related to vehicle miles traveled [45]. Nationally, vehicle miles traveled
in passenger cars and light trucks are the largest source
of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, and
urban sprawl has contributed to the 35 percent increase
in travel miles since 1990 [46]. Communities of color and
the poor are more likely to be exposed to traffic related air
pollution from major roadways [47, 48]. It is therefore necessary to address inequitable land use development patterns, including the role of discriminatory urban sprawl,
to reduce anthropogenic GHG emissions that cause climate change.
Race and Ethnicity
• Damaged areas were 45.8 percent African American, undamaged areas, only 26.4 percent. For the city of New Orleans alone,
these figures were 75% and 46.2 percent, respectively
• Around the time of Katrina, poor Blacks were much less likely to have access to cars than even poor Whites, 53 versus
17 percent [40].
• Damaged areas had 20.9 percent of households living below the federal poverty line, undamaged areas only 15.3 percent.
For the city of New Orleans alone, these figures were 29.2 percent and 24.7 percent, respectively
• In the city of New Orleans, before Katrina hit, women had much higher poverty rates than men, with 2004 figures of
25.9 percent and 20 percent [41].
• Damaged areas had 45.7 percent renter-occupied households, undamaged areas, only 30.9 percent.
Table 1: Disproportionate Effects on Poor and Non-White Residents of New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina.
Art. 22, page 6 of 17 Forman et al: Chapter 8. Bending the Curve and Closing the Gap
Climate change also exacerbates social inequality by
increasing costs for basic necessities such as food [49]
and water [50], thereby disproportionately affecting lowincome households that already spend the highest percentage of their incomes on such essential goods [30].
Poor people may also lack the ability to implement green
solutions, since they are typically preoccupied with the
daily tasks of survival, often battling hunger, disease, violence and the deprivation of human rights that tend to
cluster in conditions of scarcity. Despite the burdens on
the poor and on communities of color, however, studies
have shown that such communities are more inclined to
support strong government action to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions [51].
Equity and the Climate Gap: California
The interconnections between climate change, health,
and justice suggest the importance of incorporating cobenefits into climate mitigation policy to ensure that
solutions leverage improvements in community health
and livelihoods, while advancing climate justice. Linking
social equity, health and sustainability goals in environmental policy has the very real ability to mobilize key
constituencies to address climate change more effectively
than just a focus on climate change alone. California has
made significant efforts to integrate equity into policies and programs to address climate change in order to
ensure that disadvantaged populations receive an appropriate distribution of benefits as well as protection from
additional harms.
The California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32)
includes specific language mandating consideration of
procedural, geographic, and social equity in the law’s
implementation. While the law has ambitious goals for
reducing greenhouse gases, some of the centerpiece,
market-based strategies for doing so, particularly the capand-trade and offset programs, have been the subject of
controversy, particularly for environmental justice organizations. These groups have pointed out that market-based
programs, such as cap and trade, could allow the state’s
largest emitters of greenhouse gases — power plants,
refineries, and cement kilns which are disproportionately
located in low income communities of color — to purchase
their way to compliance rather than reducing their own
emissions. This scenario is problematic from an equity perspective because reductions in carbon emissions can produce significant health co-benefits in the form of cleaner
air in the communities that host these large greenhouse
gas emitters. Motivated by this equity concern, a group
of environmental justice organizations legally challenged
the use of such market-based strategies, but ultimately
these programs were allowed to proceed. In the wake
of the litigation, environmental health and justice advocates succeeded in getting legislation passed to create a
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), which directs a
specified portion of revenues from the auction of greenhouse gas allowances to less advantaged communities.
The law specifically requires that at least 25 percent of
auction revenue be invested in projects that provide benefits to disadvantaged communities and that a minimum
of 10 percent be directly invested in projects within those
communities. Ultimately, one of the key goals of the GGRF
is to advance mitigation, adaptation, and equity strategies
that address the climate gap.
Disadvantaged communities in California have been
identified and prioritized for funding using the California
Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool [52].
CalEnviroScreen was developed through a public process
that included extensive community input. It enables the
identification of communities in California that are burdened by a combination of factors, including contact with
pollutants, adverse environmental conditions, biological
vulnerability due to underlying disease burden, and social
vulnerability due to poverty and other community characteristics. The concept of using cumulative impacts in
communities to prioritize areas for funding allows some
important principles of climate justice to be integrated
into climate mitigation decisions.
Hundreds of millions of dollars from California’s climate
mitigation programs has already been spent to benefit disadvantaged communities and hundreds of millions more
are anticipated annually for projects to improve public
transit, transit-oriented development, affordable housing,
active low-carbon transportation, urban forestry, wetlands
and watershed restoration, water-energy efficiency, rebate
programs for zero-emission vehicles, weatherization programs for low income communities, recycling and waste
minimization, and forest health. In addition to reducing
greenhouse gases, these investments bring jobs into disadvantaged communities, create local conditions that promote health, and help redress environmental injustices.
This program has the potential to serve as a model for a
way to use a market-based greenhouse gas reduction program to generate funds that serve to also address principles of health and climate justice.
Localizing the global: climate mitigation at the
urban scale
Cities are now home to more than half the world’s population. Covering less than 2% of the earth’s surface, the
United Nations estimates that cities consume 2/3 of the
world’s energy and produce 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions through industrial and energy production, vehicles, and biomass use [53]. At the same
time, cities are highly susceptible to the effects of climate
change. Cities everywhere at all latitudes experience the
effects of urban heat islands because of the absorptive
nature of building and road materials. In California, for
example, this heat island effect can raise urban ambient
temperature by as much as 4–19 degrees F compared
with non-urban landscapes. [54]. In essence, cities today
are living the planet of the future. Further, 90% of cities
are located in coastal and riparian areas [55], putting most
at risk for flooding from sea level rise and storms, raising
urgent questions about the present location of key urban
infrastructure – airports, power plants, hospitals, water
management facilities.
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From the perspective of both climate justice and sheer
self-interest, cities must be at the forefront of global climate change mitigation, as well as adaptation strategies
to reduce the growing vulnerability of urban populations.
And some already are. We will discuss several examples in
this section emerging from California and Latin America.
In most industrialized nations, there is far more climate
action at the municipal level than at the national level,
with agile, climate-minded mayors and governors who
are capitalizing on the emerging power of cities in a globalizing world of distributed flows, and who understand
their capacity to coordinate innovative cross-sector collaborations and regional mobilizations to produce rapid
change. [56]. It was mayors that Pope Francis first convened when seeking global support for his encyclical letter of May 24, 2015 calling for urgent coordinated global
climate action [57].
Urban strategies to reduce carbon emissions tend to
focus on infrastructure, planning and public policy to
tackle unsustainable patterns of urban sprawl and create dense cities with mixed-use affordable housing and
urban green spaces, green “net-zero” buildings and retrofits, expanded rail and public transportation, and intelligent water and waste management practices. Many of
these strategies have been discussed at length in earlier
chapters, but often they do not enjoy widespread public support. A guiding assumption of this report is that
research and analysis of climate mitigation needs to integrate a diversity of approaches. Sustainable urban development depends not only on designing the best physical
infrastructure and technologies, but these interventions
must be informed by public policy, economics and social
behavior. Here, we contextualize the conversation about
sustainable urban development in the concrete social
reality of cities, with an emphasis on deepening urban inequality across the world, and the wall of prevailing public
opinion and behavior patterns that resist climate change
ranging from outright denial, motivated by political or
market ideologies, to apathetic disregard. Opinion on the
urgency for increased public investment in our cities to
address deepening inequality seems to follow the same
distribution pattern. Ultimately, these two social challenges – urban inequality and the urgent need for public
investment in strategies of equitable climate mitigation –
are cross-cutting and intertwined.
Climate justice and the urban poor
Cities are epicenters of global financial power and influence, flowing with the rapid movement of people, products, information, ideas and fashion, but they are also
teeming with social inequality. In the developing world,
rapid urbanization in recent decades has produced dramatic “asymmetrical” growth patterns as the poorest populations have amassed by the millions in precarious informal settlements, often peri-urban, and frequently along
rivers and lagoons, uniquely exposing them to the effects
of climate change – floods, drought, food and water
shortages, and disease [58]. The explosion of slums at the
periphery of cities across the planet is a humanitarian crisis of gargantuan proportion that cities in the developing
world today are proving unprepared to confront [59].
The urban poor are often further marginalized by mitigation solutions themselves. In recent years, urban growth
has been primarily supply-side, stewarded by developers
who concentrate their investments in zones of greatest
profitability; while zones of greatest need go neglected.
In developed cities, even urban resilience projects with climate-friendly mandates have been transformed by private
developers into mega-scale urban infill opportunities that
gentrify neighborhoods with “themed” and gated environments, anchored by generic cultural and commercial franchises, ubiquitous enclaves of consumption that appeal to
a cosmopolitan millennial class, and drive diverse, disadvantaged demographics from urban neighborhoods [60].
Climate justice suggests that strategies to produce resilient, sustainable and walkable cities guard against inequitable demographic displacements that homogenize and
destroy the social fabric and micro-economies of urban
Equitable climate mitigation requires that a city’s global
and local climate agendas converge, that participation in
global decarbonization efforts improves quality of life for
the urban poor at home. For example, when a city regulates emissions and relies more heavily on renewable
energy sources, the planet benefits, and the impact on
local public health is immediate, particularly in disadvantaged areas of the city that are often closer in proximity to
carbon-producing industrial and freeway infrastructure.
Changing cities, norms first: bringing climate change
When Antanas Mockus became mayor of Bogota, Colombia during its most challenging period of urban violence
in the late 90s and early 2000s, he declared that urban
transformation begins not with infrastructural intervention but with pedagogical strategies designed to
transform social behavior. He became legendary for the
distinctive ways he intervened into the behavioral dysfunction of Bogota, dramatically reducing violence and
lawlessness, reducing water consumption while improving quality of life for the poor, reconnecting citizens with
their government and with each other, and ultimately
paving the way for Mayor Enrique Penalosa’s renowned
TransMilenio BRT system, and the Cyclovia bicycle paths,
which revolutionized public transportation in Latin
America [61].
Mockus emerged from a tradition of participatory
urbanization, stewarded by climate-forward mayors committed to urban pedagogy and public participation to
ignite a sense of collective agency and dignity among the
poor, and ultimately produce greener, more equitable cities. From the Worker’s Party mayors who stewarded participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, to Jaime Lerner who
pioneered bus rapid transit and dozens of green interventions in Curitiba, to the “social urbanism” of Sergio Fajardo
that transformed Medellin, Colombia from the most violent city on the planet to a global model of urban transformation, this tradition still thrives in cities across the
Art. 22, page 8 of 17 Forman et al: Chapter 8. Bending the Curve and Closing the Gap
continent, from La Paz to Quito to Mexico City, and carries
important lessons for successful climate action in cities
across the world today [62, 63, 64, 65].
Urban climate mitigation strategies must be situated in
a social context of norms and habits, which are frequently
contradictory to climate-friendly agendas. Climate action
plans typically focus on the reduction of GHG emissions
through top down intervention. But they need supporting strategies of civic engagement and public education
to challenge prevailing opinion and behavior patterns
and activate bottom-up participatory climate action.
Research shows that respondents are more receptive to
climate-friendly public policy when they better understand the specific local impact of global climate change
[66, 67, 68]. Proximity matters. In a study commissioned
by the Union of Concerned Scientists, subtitled “Start
with Impacts / End with Action”, for example, there were
two essential findings. The first relates to the proximity of
negative climate impact, and the second to the proximity
of actionable solutions. Making the negative effects of climate change tangible and present for people, rather than
something far-off like melting icecaps and polar bears,
makes receptivity and corresponding behavior more
likely. Focus-group research shows that understanding
precisely how sea-level rise will affect one’s city, or one’s
neighborhood, makes it likelier that an individual, even
an individual self-described as politically “conservative”,
will be receptive to the concept of global climate change
generally and supportive of climate-friendly public policy.
Second, the focus group research found that people are
more receptive to global climate change when solutions
are connected to concrete opportunities for local action.
Participatory Climate Action in Underserved US
Neighborhoods: The UCSD-EarthLab Community
Focus group research is reinforced by the success of neighborhood-scale participatory climate action projects across
the world, documented by organizations like Climate
Action Network International and the Climate Justice Alliance. In disadvantaged neighborhoods plagued by poverty, violence, failing schools and failing infrastructure,
climate can seem remote from the acute challenges of
everyday life. Disadvantaged urban populations are likelier to become engaged in climate action, and are likelier
to change consumption and production habits, when they
understand the linkages between climate and poverty in
their neighborhoods; and when local opportunities for
participatory action with neighborhood-scale impact (e.g.,
interventions that increase localized food and water security) are made available to them.
UC San Diego, through its Community Stations Initiative,
has developed a new approach to participatory climate
action in underserved neighborhoods, partnering with community-based environmental non-profits throughout the
San Diego-Tijuana region on climate education and participatory climate action at neighborhood scale. An example is
the EarthLab Community Station, a special partnership with
Groundwork San Diego, based in Encanto, a low-income
community of color situated along the city’s most polluted
waterway. Encanto is emblematic of many inner-city neighborhoods in the US, whose physical and social fabric has
been disrupted by the imposition of freeway infrastructure,
pre-emptive water management systems, utility easements
and discriminatory land use policies.
UC San Diego and Groundwork, in collaboration with
the San Diego Unified School District and industry partners, convened to create the UCSD-Earthlab Community
Station, a field-based research and teaching hub that promotes STEM success for at-risk youth and participatory,
project-based environmental education and climate action
at neighborhood scale. EarthLab is an outdoor civic classroom of 4 acres, replete with community gardens, solar
houses, water harvesting facilities, an energy “nano-grid”,
and other environmental sustainability infrastructures,
designed in collaboration with UC San Diego researchers
and students as learning tools for the six public schools
in walking distance of the site. Hundreds of low income
youth and their families circulate through EarthLab each
year, learning about climate justice and climate action in
very concrete ways.
The university also gains from climate action partnerships
with community-based agencies like Groundwork, providing an unprecedented climate action laboratory in situ. For
example, UC San Diego is a global leader in energy storage
research, and home to one of the world’s most advanced
microgrids, which generates about 92 percent of campus
energy needs, at a savings of more than $8 million a year.
EarthLab Community Station presents a unique opportunity to develop energy solutions for Encanto, advancing
the university’s research mission while providing a huge
climate mitigation asset for a local urban neighborhood
and its residents. Recognizing the potential of this unique
cross-sector collaboration to serve as a model for climate
action in disadvantaged communities across the state, the
California Energy Commission in 2016 granted the UCSD
EarthLab Community Station a planning grant of 1.5M to
design advanced energy solutions for the community of
Encanto. A significant portion of the planning grant will
be focused on neighborhood-scale environmental education and attitudinal / behavioral shift.
The UC San Diego Community Stations present a
compelling model of what a successful, cross-sector
neighborhood-scale climate action partnership in an
underserved community can look like. Obviously particular configurations will vary from context to context, but
university-community partnerships for climate action are
highly replicable and scalable since research universities
everywhere can cultivate long-term partnerships with
environmental non-profits in local underserved neighborhoods, and develop collaborative research and teaching on climate action. And when this happens, university,
community and planet all benefit.
Agriculture, Food Justice and Climate Change
Industrial smoke stacks; power plants; exhaust from cars,
trucks, ships, trains and airplanes typically get listed first
when someone is asked to identify human-generated
sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Other less obvious
Forman et al: Chapter 8. Bending the Curve and Closing the Gap Art. 22, page 9 of 17
sources include land use (e.g., how we grow food, build
cities) and land cover (e.g., impermeable concrete paving,
crops, pasture or forests). The 2014 U.S. Global Change
Research Program’s Third National Climate Assessment
includes chapters with key messages about land use and
land cover, agriculture, forests, cities and infrastructure.
The sector referred to as Agriculture, Forestry and Other
Land Use (AFOLU) emits approximately one quarter of
anthropogenic GHG emissions. Choices about land-use
and land cover often have major impacts on the degree
to which human communities are vulnerable to climate
change. Better land-use and land management choices
can help reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. This
point is abundantly clear in the case of the Amazon, where
dramatic declines in deforestation have averted megatons
of carbon emissions thanks to a convergence of new institutional arrangements, regulations, political will, land use
monitoring, social pacts and social change and supply
chain monitoring [69].
The Third National Climate Assessment also stresses the
point that energy, water and land use patterns interact.
Thus we need more integrative approaches to mitigating
climate change. We need to do a better job, for instance,
jointly considering risks, vulnerabilities, and opportunities
where energy, water, and land use systems intersect [70].
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has devised a compelling approach to this challenge by identifying what it
calls the water security, food security, and energy security
trilemma. The NSF is supporting much needed research
“to understand, model, design, and manage the interconnected food-energy-water system, which incorporates natural, social and human built components” (NSF).
Climate change and the next green revolution
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
warns that the world’s food supply is in jeopardy. This is
not the first time such concern has been expressed. The
“Green Revolution” from the 1960s to 1990s averted what
some had worried would be widespread famine in less
developed countries, especially in Asia. Unfortunately,
food security concerns have (re)emerged over the past
two decades as the growth rate of crop yields worldwide
has slowed down significantly [71]. Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate scientist, points out
that yields in some areas have stopped growing entirely.
Moreover, Oppenheimer says: “My personal view is that
the breakdown of food systems is the biggest threat of climate change” (cited in [72]).
What are the appropriate means for bringing about
a new green revolution? This is a subject of considerable debate. Broadly speaking, there are two competing
visions. One vision embraces modern genetic engineering of plants and seedstocks. The other sees reliance on
genetic engineering—including Genetically Modified
Organisms (GMOs)—as problematic. The latter view
expresses concern that genetically modified seeds are an
expensive input into a fossil fuel intensive food production system that depends too much on synthetic fertilizers which, when applied to agricultural fields emit potent
greenhouse gasses. Hans Herren, a World Food Prize
laureate, represents this view arguing that “We need a
farming system that is much more mindful of landscape
and ecological resources. We need to change the paradigm
of the green revolution. Heavy-input agriculture has no
future—we need something different.” (cited in [73]).
Part of the problem, regardless of whether or not one
supports genetic engineering, lies in the emergence of
large-scale monocrop agriculture as a form of industrialized factory farming. Monocropping is efficient in some
respects (i.e., it enables specialization in equipment and
crop production) but it tends to reduce biodiversity. Loss
of biodiversity increases the risk of widespread impacts
across large fields of genetically similar crops when said
crops are challenged by disease, pests or shifting temperature, soil or water conditions. Climate change is expected
to hit modern agriculture hard, and in ways that disproportionately increase food insecurity placing the greatest burden on the urban poor [74]. The rising interest in
“urban” agriculture can be understood, in part, as a countervailing response to the faltering of modern agriculture
and its vulnerabilities [75, 76, 77].
Urban Agriculture: Climate friendly Food Forests and
Food Justice
Interest in Urban Agriculture (UA) as a way to address
food disparities is on the rise in the USA and around
the world. A team of seven University of California (UC)
researchers recently published the results of a needs
assessment examining the status of UA throughout California. They cite the following definition of UA: “Urban
and peri-UA refers to the production, distribution and
marketing of food and other products within the cores of
metropolitan areas (comprising community and school
gardens; backyard and rooftop horticulture; and innovative food-production methods that maximize production in a small area) and at their edges (including farms
supplying urban farmers markets, community supported
agriculture and family farms located in metropolitan
green belts)” [78]. Food Justice has emerged as a critical framework underpinning progressive approaches to
UA, including interconnected efforts “to ensure that the
benefits and risks of where, what, and how food is grown,
produced, transported, distributed, accessed and eaten
are shared fairly” [79].
The installation of community gardens and Food
Forests in places where people live in poverty and lack
access to fresh fruits and vegetables (i.e., food deserts)
creates opportunities to foster food justice by driving
socio-ecological change that is civically engaged and climate friendly. An urban Food Forest—which is really an
agroforest is a land management system that replicates a
woodland or forest ecosystem using edible plants, trees,
shrubs, annuals and perennials. Fruit and nut trees provide the forest canopy layer; lower growing trees and
shrubs create an understory layer; and combinations of
berry-producing shrubs, herbs and edible perennials and
annuals make up the shrub and herbaceous layers. Other
companions or beneficial plants, along with soil amendments, provide nitrogen and mulch, hold water in the soil,
attract pollinators, and prevent erosion. By recreating the
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functions of a forest ecosystem, a Food Forest improves
air, water, and soil as it creates habitat, harvestable food,
and greenspace in the densest urban areas or campus environments. Trees, plants and soil stabilize nitrogen, reduce
soil erosion and stormwater runoff, sequester carbon, and
remove harmful pollutants. As urban green spaces, Food
Forests reduce urban heat island effects and give residents
a visual and physical respite from the impacts of urban living. Amended and re-planted soils produce a healthy soil
microbiome, which supports more nutrient-dense foods
and sequesters carbon. Pollinators, beneficial insects, and
birds also find habitat in a Food Forest. And by providing
food yields without more intensive garden maintenance
practices, Food Forests provide an important compliment
to other urban gardening palettes.
The localization of food production reduces “food
miles” (i.e., the distance food travels from farm to table)
potentially lowering the carbon footprint of certain foodstuffs. A study completed by researchers at the University
of California, San Diego found this to be the case with
organic oranges grown locally in San Diego when compared with oranges imported from Florida [80]. The
energy and water consumption needed to produce food
can be reduced when urban agriculturalists avoid petrochemical based fertilizers, build soil with organic wastes
(compost), use recycled wastewater, and harvest rainwater
and urban runoff. Climate benefits can also be realized by
reducing food wastage. The concept of wastage incudes
(1) food lost for human consumption as a result of supply chain inefficiencies (e.g., failure to harvest crops in
time, damage to the food during processing or transport),
plus (2) food waste (e.g., edible items that get discarded
for a variety of reasons—such as imperfections in appearance, spoilage, and people putting too much food on their
Urban-Rural Planning: A Bioregional Approach
Urban and peri-urban agriculture are important localized
solutions to the problem of global climate change. But in
order to fully realize the potential of place-based solutions,
urban, peri-urban, and rural areas need to be conceptualized together. Rather than imagining cities, suburbs, and
rural areas separately, a bioregional approach defines
regions around existing biological and environmental features such as watershed areas. A bioregion’s boundary is
not fixed. It takes into account factors including climate,
topography, flora, fauna, soil, and water together with
the territory’s sociocultural characteristics, economy, and
human settlement patterns. Thayer, a widely noted bioregional scholar, argues that “the bioregion is emerging as
the most logical locus and scale for a sustainable, regenerative community to take root and to take place” [81].
Bioregional theory demands a shift in how we imagine
the places we live in and how we develop land, communities and industry. Moving to a bioregional approach
requires both a spatial and conceptual shift. As early
bioregional theorists Berg and Dasmann describe, “the
term refers both to geographical terrain and a terrain
of consciousness – to a place and the ideas that have
developed about how to live in that place” [82]. In a bioregional approach, urban dwellers are pushed to imagine
the space they live in to include resources we usually think
of as rural land issues. Rural and peri-urban areas are more
than peripheries to a city; they are integral components of
systems that encompass urban and non-urban land use
areas together. As the Carnegie UK Trust describes in its
2009 Manifesto for Rural Communities, “In an increasingly fragile world, rural areas should be recognized as
resource rich; places where assets are stewarded for the
nation as a whole. After decades where rural areas have
just been seen as hinterlands to large urban areas and city
regions, this imperative places rural communities at the
heart of policymaking for the nation as a whole.”
The most basic tenet of bioregional theory is that we
human beings are social animals; if we are to survive as a
species we need healthy relationships and secure, “rooted”
attachments with one another and with the land, waters,
habitat, plants and animals upon which we depend.
Rootedness is defined here as having secure attachments
to one’s life place and the people associated with sustaining it [83]. A bioregional approach is a promising route
toward building environmentally sustainable and socially
just futures. As Thayer describes, “a mutually sustainable
future for humans, other life-forms, and earthly systems
can best be achieved by means of a spatial framework in
which people live as rooted, active, participating members
of a reasonably scaled, naturally bounded, ecologically
defined territory, or life-place”[81]. When human beings
are rooted, they feel deeply connected to place, to natural
systems, and to communities. In the bioregional framework we describe here, rootedness becomes a core goal for
social, racial and environmental justice [84, 85].
Rural Agricultural Production: Livestock and
Climate Change
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization, the raising of livestock for human consumption contributes about 18 percent of global greenhouse
gas emissions [86]. Livestock differs in its contribution to
climate change, with the approximately 1.3 billion cattle globally responsible for about 40% of the total livestock GHG emissions [87]. This makes a cow a much more
important contributor to climate change than a car.
Although livestock accounts for less than ten percent of
global carbon dioxide emissions, this sector contributes
disproportionately to emissions of two potent short-lived
climate pollutants: nitrous oxide (N2
O) and methane, significantly elevating the total emissions from livestock.
Animals, especially ruminants such as cattle, sheep, and
goats, produce large amounts of methane through their
digestive process; N2
O is emitted from manure as well
as from synthetic fertilizers used to grow crops for animal feed. The production of crops for livestock feed and
the use of land for grazing jointly accounts for about 70
percent of agricultural land, and 30 percent of the land
surface of the entire planet [86]. Deforestation of tropical forests is significantly driven by the conversion of
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forest land to pastures, and the elimination of the carbon sequestration and environmental services formerly
provided by the tropical forests. Global demand for meat
is projected to nearly double by 2050, significantly exacerbating the current problems. Further, some 48 million
hectares of South American tropical lands have been
deforested and converted to industrial soy/corn production to feed animals.
In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, livestock production results in significant depletion and degradation
of other environmental resources, including depletion
of freshwater resources, erosion, sedimentation, and
eutrophication of surface water and offshore environments. Overall, cattle account for 1/3 of the global water
footprint of total agricultural production [87]. In certain
areas, such as in the Midwestern U.S. and California,
there is depletion of groundwater aquifers due in significant part to livestock production [88]. In the U.S. where
animal feedlots predominate, there is documentation of
significant water and air pollution in low-income minority communities near feedlots, and associations with
stress-related cardiovascular health effects [89, 90, 91],
as well as the local spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms due to the heavy use of antibiotics in such facilities
[92, 93].
Over-consumption of red meat has been shown to cause
a wide array of adverse health effects, including increased
risk of total mortality, and mortality from cardiovascular
disease and cancer [94]. Specific associations have been
documented between excess red meat consumption and
colorectal cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Red meat consumption during adolescence
has also been associated with a 43 percent increased
risk of premenopausal breast cancer in women [95]. As
developing countries move through a nutritional transition from traditional diets toward greater consumption
of meat, there have been corresponding shifts in disease
patterns, with an increase in cardiovascular and renal disease, as well as shifts in cancer incidence [96]. Therefore
reduced consumption of red meat could bring significant
health benefits to populations in the U.S. and in some rapidly industrializing societies.
Addressing the GHG emissions from livestock production should be a high priority because it could reduce
short-lived climate pollutants and therefore slow warming in the near-term. Unfortunately, livestock production
is currently projected to increase substantially by 2050,
mainly in countries of low or middle income. The current global average meat consumption is 100 grams per
person per day, with about a ten-fold variation between
high-consuming and low-consuming populations. While
current predictions show a global rise in meat consumption alongside population growth and a globally growing
middle class, stabilizing or decreasing meat consumption
could be a way to lower GHG emissions while continuing to raise animals for dairy and meat. 90 grams per day
has been proposed as a target, shared more evenly across
countries, with not more than 50 grams per day from
red meat from cattle and other ruminants [97]. Efforts
such as the “Meatless Mondays” movement, which is currently on at least seven campuses within the University
of California system, can both educate people about the
climate impacts of meat, and directly reduce consumption through emphasizing healthy vegetarian alternatives
at institutional cafeterias.
Current U.S. policies push meat producers to realize
increasing economies of scale, with narrow margins in
meat production that must be exploited through producing large volumes in consolidated production facilities.
Direct subsidies to livestock production, such as in the
U.S. for the production of animal feed crops, contribute
to the harmful pattern and should be revised or eliminated. Indirect subsidies for the livestock industry, such
as exemptions from air quality and water quality laws
and regulations, should also be eliminated. Technologies
for methane reduction or capture may have potential
to reduce GHG emissions from livestock under certain
conditions, but there have been economic and logistical
barriers to their use, and they tend to promote concentration of livestock (e.g., large confined feeding operations),
which has other adverse environmental impacts. In concert with the urban agricultural models and bioregional
approach articulated in this chapter, localized smallerscale solutions need to be considered as a possible path
for the future of meat and dairy production. With robust
policy changes and experimental models, the meat industry might be able to realize efficient, safe, affordable protein production through dispersed local production sites
for dairy and meat production.
The University of California Global Food
Initiative (UC GFI)
The University of California Global Food Initiative (UC
GFI) is exploring how we might best sustainably and
nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach
eight billion by 2025. UC President Janet Napolitano,
together with UC’s 10 chancellors, launched the UC
Global Food Initiative in July 2014. Building on existing
efforts and creating new collaborations among UC’s 10
campuses, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and
UC’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the
initiative draws on UC’s leadership in the fields of agriculture, medicine, nutrition, climate science, public policy,
social science, biological science, humanities, arts and
law, among others.
A UC GFI research project underway at UC San Diego
is examining urban agriculture, green infrastructure and
food disparities in the San Diego-Tijuana transborder cityregion (along the U.S.-Mexico border). The researchers
are critically analyzing and evaluating urban agriculture
(including community gardens, urban farms, food forests,
aquaculture, and animal husbandry) in low-income and
underserved neighborhoods to gauge urban agriculture’s
potential to reduce food disparities, increase food security
and enable climate change mitigation through the greening of infrastructure. The latter challenge (climate change
mitigation) ties the UC GFI to the UC Carbon Neutrality
Art. 22, page 12 of 17 Forman et al: Chapter 8. Bending the Curve and Closing the Gap
The challenge of reducing planetary greenhouse gases is
deeply intertwined with numerous other global and social
challenges: conserving planetary resources and biodiversity, protecting the purity of our air, land and water,
ensuring an adequate and safe food supply, protecting
public health, and creating the social and ecological conditions to enhance equity both globally and locally. Fortunately there are many tools to help address these many
In the urban environment, there are examples – in
California, Latin America, and around the world – of
projects that educate and activate low-income communities, including low-income youth, to address local and
planetary challenges. Many communities already have
good ideas that can be mobilized. Many such projects
also include urban greening and urban agriculture, which
tie multiple solutions together to increase sustainability.
Health-focused efforts include urban forestry efforts to
reduce the urban heat island effect and conserve energy,
active transportation efforts to encourage bicycling and
walking, and efforts to reduce the over-consumption of
meat in more affluent societies. In California, unique
funding streams have become available thanks to the
auction revenues from the greenhouse gas reduction program. This funding is being used in creative ways to focus
support on climate mitigation projects to benefit disadvantaged communities and to also achieve co-benefits for
pollution reduction, health and climate resilience.
1. Focus GHG Reductions on Industrial Sources.
Designate High Priority Zones for GHG reductions
in areas where health co-benefits are likely to be
large, such as in communities impacted by major
industrial sources or power plants. This kind of
targeting can make mitigation more efficient in the
short-term by enhancing public health benefits,
particularly in communities that need them the
2. Target Carbon Mitigation Funding to Projects
in Disadvantaged Communities. Prioritize
climate equity in the distribution of funds raised
from market-based GHG reduction strategies by
targeting investments to low income communities where they can leverage mitigation, adaptation, health, and social co-benefits. Projects that
should be supported in such communities include
low-income weatherization, solarization, affordable energy-efficient housing, public transit, active
transportation (eg. Bicycle lanes), urban forestry,
water conservation, waste reduction, and forest
conservation, among others.
3. Track Market Mechanisms and Mitigation
Measures to Ensure Against Backsliding. Carefully track the performance of market-based GHG
reduction programs and other mitigation measures
to assure that there are no incidental increases in
co-pollutant emissions in disadvantaged communities, and to assure that such communities receive
benefits from these programs and are not displaced
or marginalized.
4. Educate for Climate Action in Disadvantaged
Communities. Cultivate cross-sector partnerships
in climate-vulnerable, underserved urban neighborhoods between research universities, communitybased agencies, local school districts and industry
partners, to produce SEEDs – Community Stations
for Environmental Education and Development –
research and teaching hubs that promote STEM
success for at-risk youth and local economic development through civic engagement, project-based
environmental education and neighborhood-scale
climate action to reduce GHGs (capitalizing on
university expertise in urban forestry, urban agriculture, energy storage, energy monitoring, water
conservation, incentivizing photovoltaic retrofits,
etc.) Replicate SEED partnerships throughout the
University of California system and beyond; and
network such projects via social media to ensure a
broad impact.
5. Reduce Meat Consumption among Higher
Income Populations. Promote strategies to reduce
the consumption of beef, a major source of the
short-lived climate pollutants methane and nitrous
oxide, by encouraging institutions and individuals to embrace “Meatless Mondays”, and removing
public financial support for the meat industry such
as subsidies for production of feed crops, use of
public lands for grazing, and regulatory exemptions
from waste treatment. Reduced beef consumption
will also greatly promote health, reduce forest destruction in the developing world, and lead to local
improvements in water and air quality.
6. Enhance Urban Treescapes and Food Forests.
A civically engaged urban forestry program
(including fruit and nut tree cultivation in urban
food forests) can play a vital role in meeting municipal and regional efforts to deal with climate
change. Many cities are creating urban treescape
asset maps and developing urban forest management plans for multiple reasons (e.g., sequester carbon, reduce urban heat island impacts,
increase local food production, green space,
water conservation). It is important to document/evaluate/support this work from climate
change mitigation, adaptation and resilience
standpoints, and also to include in the calculus
of benefits the other environmental services that
are generated as well such as biodiversity enhancement, black carbon absorption, interactions
with the hydrological system.
7. Build Green Infrastructure for Stormwater
Management. Climate change models suggest
that an increase in the number of extreme weather
events will likely bring more torrential downpours
and flooding to many parts of California and nearby
Mexico. Green infrastructure includes rain gardens,
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bioswales, permeable pavements, rain water
harvesting, and other naturally designed features
created to conserve or enhance land, wetlands,
and ecosystems. Green infrastructure that reduces
flooding while making more efficient use of water
saves money and energy in ways that reduce a city’s
carbon footprint and vulnerability.
8. Adopt a bioregional framework for urban-rural
planning. A bioregional approach imagines the
city as within and part of the environment, and
couples the urban and rural in how we plan regionally. Rather than separate urban and rural planning,
bioregions become the spatial and conceptual
arena for planning in all realms, including food,
water, transportation and energy infrastructures. In
a bioregional framework “rootedness,” defined as a
feeling of affection and healthy attachment to place
and community, becomes a core goal for social,
racial and environmental justice.
9. Emphasize rootedness and place-based solutions for public health and climate justice.
Human beings are social animals, and require
rooted attachments to other people, land, and
natural systems in order to maximize overall health
and well-being. A place-based approach, emphasizing the need for human beings to be rooted within
communities and ecologies, is a route for improving climate justice and public health outcomes.
Competing Interests
The authors have no competing interests to declare.
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How to cite this article: Forman, F, Solomon, G, Morello-Frosch, R and Pezzoli, K 2016 Chapter 8. Bending the Curve and Closing
the Gap: Climate Justice and Public Health. Collabra, 2(1): 22, pp. 1–17, DOI:
Submitted: 19 October 2016 Accepted: 19 October 2016 Published: 12 December 2016
Copyright: © 2016 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original author and source are credited. See
OPEN ACCESS Collabra is a peer-reviewed open access journal
published by University of California Press.

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