Climate Literacy

Climate patterns are changing with noticeable local impacts. Preparing for these impacts is key to community resilience.

Climate literacy is a framework that focuses on understanding how you and others in your community might participate in—and effectively prepare for—a resilient community in the face of climate variability.

An understanding of these issues can help us promote positive environmental and human health at a community and individual level.

Water Resources

Water is a precious resource and will become increasingly so as normal patterns of rainfall, streamflow, and flooding continue to change in coming years. In a changing climate, higher sea levels and more frequent storms will combine to increase the extent, frequency, and duration of floods in many places, both coastal and along rivers.

Take stock of your vulnerabilities by looking at how your economic centers, population centers, sewage systems, power grids, and fragile coastal ecosystems will be affected.

Coastal Risks

Coastal communities face particular challenges in climate change. While coastal areas have always been at risk of flooding, the risk increases with global warming. Factors such as more severe storms, shoreline changes, and sea level rise—individually and in combination—make coastal flooding more likely.

Increased flood risks include floods in places not previously prone to flooding, as well as more severe flooding in already flood-prone areas. 

As of 2014, 127 million people in the US (40% of the population) live in coastal counties. Given that high tides are projected to increase up to six and half feet over the next century if emission rates continue as they are now, flooding is a serious concern for coastal communities. Even with significant reductions in greenhouse gases, sea level rise is predicted to be at least 8 inches.

In addition to roads, homes, and businesses, infrastructure serving the entire community is also at risk from flooding. Police and fire stations built in low-lying areas cannot operate if they are flooded, and must be relocated. Water and sewer systems are especially vulnerable to rising waters, and are expensive to retrofit or rebuild further inland.

Coastal communities that plan for higher sea levels and increased flooding will adapt with fewer crises. It is important to remember that preventive measures are more cost-effective than disaster response. Many communities are taking measures to adapt by mapping the local flood risks, and mandating that buildings be elevated and built to withstand flooding. Roads, bridges, and utilities are being identified for rebuilding to new standards in order to withstand rising water. In some places where flooding has repeatedly occurred, homes and buildings are being removed.


New temperature patterns and seasonal changes are affecting local growing seasons, impacting what food can be grown where, and making some land completely unusable for food production. Extreme weather events and fires are also disrupting harvests, as well as food processing and distribution.

In order to create a food network that can handle these changes, your local community may want to research the effects of climate variability on local food supplies and consider local food resilience practices. On an individual level, take a close look at where your food comes from and how you can reduce waste.

Physical Effects of Climate Variability

Extreme heat, extreme weather events, and increased air pollutants will all affect human health directly, as people struggle to deal with the physical effects of climate change. Older adults and children are particularly vulnerable to the adversities of extreme weather events. Building health systems that serve vulnerable human populations during weather disruptions from climate variability is crucial on a local scale.