North Carolina State University will lead a multi-institutional effort to develop climate resilience solutions in frontline communities in the Carolinas, thanks to a five-year, $5 million dollar grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Frontline communities refer to communities who experience the first and worst impacts of the climate crisis.
The team, which includes researchers from NC State, North Carolina Central University, UNC-Chapel Hill, the Museum of Life and Science, Furman University and South Carolina State University, is tasked with building community partnerships to advance climate resilience and health equity in the region.
“Extreme weather and climate events like heat waves and hurricanes impact every community, but not all communities are affected equally,” says Kathie Dello, director of the State Climate Office and primary investigator on the project. “Underserved communities disproportionately feel the impacts of these events. We need to co-develop solutions with communities to protect the health and well-being of Carolinians from climate-driven disasters.”
By partnering with local communities and conducting place-based research, the team will look at how co-occurring and consecutive hazards – such as poor infrastructure and repeated climate events such as flooding – within a larger framework of historical discrimination, disinvestment and health inequities, shape climate risk.
“Resilience happens at the local level, but communities need help turning data into action,” says Jennifer Runkle, research scholar at the N.C. Institute of Climate Studies and co-PI on the project. “We will first listen to communities as they describe their climate concerns, which may not be neatly untangled from other challenges. It’s an exciting and critical time to rethink local resilience by elevating the voices of our most underserved residents to ensure the health and well-being of all North Carolinians.”
In addition to developing strategies for community resilience, the team will also focus on building community-level climate literacy by implementing community-sciences programs to track physical and social science metrics.
“The experiences of underserved communities at the start of the climate crisis will be reproduced in every Carolina community as climate change impacts become more widespread,” says Louie Rivers, associate professor of forestry and environmental research at NC State and co-PI on the project.
“Climate change is happening now, and we can see the effects,” Dello says. “By working with individual communities to create climate resilience solutions from the bottom up, we hope to provide a transferrable, national model that will protect the most vulnerable in every community from climate-driven impacts.”
The grant is administered by NOAA’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessment program, which supports research teams that help expand and build the nation’s capacity to prepare for and adapt to climate variability and change.