• Description

Over the last four years, as part of its commitment to working toward racial, environmental, and climate justice, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has partnered with a cohort of representatives from frontline community organizations facing events made more extreme by climate change. The representatives are Lanor Curole, tribal administrator of United Houma Nation, Louisiana; Hilton Kelley, founder and director of Community In-Power and Development Association Inc., Texas; Eva Olivas, executive director of Phoenix Revitalization Corporation, Arizona; Tania Rosario Méndez, executive director of Taller Salud, Puerto Rico; and Reverend Leo Woodberry, executive director of New Alpha Community Development Corporation, South Carolina. The communities these organizations serve are a sample—not an exhaustive list—of people and places across the United States and its territories facing the compounding impacts of historical and ongoing racial, economic, and climatic injustices in a warming world.

In October 2022, UCS and our partners convened in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Fifth National Adaptation Forum (NAF). The NAF is a conference for people working in climate adaptation in the United States that brings together scientists, nonprofit organizations, frontline community groups, businesses, and representatives from federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments. In this paper, we synthesize the climate impacts, adaptation measures, and resilience experiences the partners raised as panelists for the session titled "Creating Broader Understanding of Challenges and Opportunities for Increasing Adaptation in ClimateImpacted Communities: A Conversation with Local Leaders on the Frontlines of Climate Impacts." We link partners' experiences of climate impacts to well-established scientific data and literature, then make several science- and evidence-based recommendations for policymakers and adaptation practitioners, highlighting the challenges, opportunities, and needs of frontline communities for achieving climate resilience. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that communities are capable of building resilience, benefit from meaningful scientist-community partnerships, and need adaptation professionals and policymakers to remove barriers that hinder community sovereignty and success.

In our synthesis process, four common themes emerged as challenges and opportunities for increasing resilience in frontline communities: displacement, government negligence, funding, and community-driven solutions. 

Building Community Resilience: Lessons from Frontline Leaders