Gulf Center for Equitable Climate Resilience

The Gulf Center for Equitable Climate Resilience (Center) works with partners, stakeholders, and local communities to enhance and expand climate resilience equitably among individuals and communities in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The work helps communities move beyond assessment and study of risk towards an exploration of strategies that can be implemented across individual, neighborhood, municipal, state, and federal levels. Acknowledging that climate resilience is about more than physical safety and that strategies must be as diverse and unique as the communities they will serve, the Center is collaborating with a network of individuals and organizations that bring together research, lived experiences, and other resources to advance equitable climate resilience in the Gulf.

The Challenge

Coastal and inland communities along the Gulf are experiencing climate change firsthand in the form of rising seas and more frequent extreme rainfall events generating more damaging storms more often. The negative effects are wide-raging, felt across our natural and built environments, cultures, and economies and they disproportionally impact under resourced and underserved communities.

A 2022 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that unless immediate risk-management, adaptation and resilience actions are implemented, “coastal infrastructure, communities, and ecosystems will face significant consequences.” However, taking action does not come with an explicit road map and requires understanding what actions are needed, how to apply the science and securing additional resources. Many communities along the Gulf do not have the capacity to undertake these efforts or are unsure of how to move forward.

The Approach

The goal of this effort is to enhance and expand climate resilience equitably among individuals and communities in the Gulf. Becoming more resilient requires looking beyond ensuring physical safety to include systemic processes, challenges, and barriers and their impact on residents. Without acknowledging how physical risks are exacerbated by food insecurity, affordable housing, employment, health, and more, attempts to make communities more resilient will not be enough.

This work will be done through four main pillars:

  1. Convene, Coordinate, Collaborate: The Center and partners will work to review existing plans, policies, and efforts and synthesize that information into identified gaps and needs. Next, the Center will bring together stakeholders to review and refine the list of gaps and needs, prioritize focus areas of needed efforts and action, and identify potential partners in the different focus areas.
  2. Advance Literacy: The Center and partners will improve the sharing of knowledge with students and adults about the risks, needs, and opportunities for improving coastal climate resilience in underserved, frontline communities. The Center will work directly in northern Gulf communities to increase awareness of physical risks, socioeconomic challenges, and corresponding actions that individuals, communities, and states can undertake to increase their resilience. The Center will also train others on these successful approaches and support application of the methods in additional underserved communities, allowing for expansion of these approaches across the region and generating a greater reach than the Center could achieve on our own.
  3. Expand Research: The Center and partners will pursue applied social science research focused on understanding potential solutions to the policies, processes, and systemic barriers that generate and sustain inequity in climate resilience. This will include adaptive learning from implementing novel approaches in decision-making, resource distribution, and resilience actions that are inclusive of more than physical safety (e.g., insurance solutions, access to healthcare, enhancing economic opportunities). We will convene interdisciplinary teams of residents, academics, non-profits, government agencies and others to design strategies and pursuit of the most urgent research questions.
  4. Increase Action: The Center and partners will work to provide support so that a greater number of individuals and communities can pursue inclusive climate resilience planning and activities. The Center will leverage existing capacity building models focused on training community leaders for increasing their community’s resilience. In addition, the Center and partners will provide technical support to help local government and non-governmental organizations navigate climate resilience planning and implementation. This kind of technical support can take many forms such as vulnerability assessments and prioritization, needs assessments and strategic planning, funding acquisition and management, and project implementation. The Center will serve as a focal point for exploring innovative strategies and actions for increasing climate resilience equitably.