Updated: May 2
The intersection of diversity, climate change and geospatial
Satellite Image by Iban Ameztoy
Climate change widens already-existing global inequalities. Communities of colour and low-income are more likely to be in areas that are susceptible to the effects of climate change, such as flooding and heatwaves, with women and girls often disproportionately impacted. A majority of these communities are in the Global South - in a world that continues to urbanise, cities in these developing countries are most vulnerable, even indirectly through the exacerbating impact that extreme weather has on other issues such as pollution. However, historically the developed Global North is responsible for 92% of the excess greenhouse gas emissions that have contributed to the climate crisis in the first place.
Climate action must take these disparities into account. Developed countries must take responsibility for their historical emissions and provide support to developing countries in their efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. By providing data-driven insights, geospatial technology can help policymakers and communities make informed decisions that promote climate resilience and sustainability, e.g. by identifying areas of vulnerability, supporting disaster response and recovery, monitoring environmental changes, supporting renewable energy development, and assessing emissions and carbon sequestration. But not in isolation.
Satellite Image by Iban Ameztoy
Holistic solutions should be developed by combining geospatial technology with unique local knowledge, to address the specific needs of diverse communities. For example, Indigenous and traditional ecological knowledge have been shown to be effective in mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change. Indigenous peoples manage or hold tenure over at least one-quarter of the world's land surface, however their lands are often subject to encroachment by industries that contribute to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, in many countries, women are often excluded from decision making processes related to climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. A recent study pointed out that climate change academics from some of the worst-hit regions are struggling to publish papers – a challenge that is even harder for female authors.
To truly address climate change, we need to ensure that DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is a fundamental component of geospatial data collection and analysis, technology development and use. This includes not only diversity in the workforce, but also the involvement of marginalised communities in the decision-making process. As individuals, we can advocate for diverse representation and support initiatives that prioritise inclusivity.
While we cannot undo historic pollution, we can change our everyday consumption patterns and educate both ourselves and others on the impact of climate change on marginalised communities. Together, we can create a more equitable and sustainable future for all.
What small step will you take today?
About the Author
Pooja Mahapatra is an experienced geospatial expert with a passion for using technology to address climate and infrastructure challenges. She currently leads remote sensing solutions at Fugro, focusing on coastal resilience and climate change adaptation.