Although much of the conversation surrounding global warming is about projection maps, it has become increasingly apparent over the last few years that it is affecting us now. Wildfires blanket huge swaths of the globe during the warmer months: burning more and more acres every year. Freezing winters extend to parts of the planet they haven’t reached in thousands of years, floods sweep away houses, and summer heat melts buildings in historically cool, grey, and rainy places. Climate change affects all of us, but some communities face a higher and faster-approaching risk than others.
Queer people in the United States and all over the world have often been a target of disease, social inequities, and a myriad of other problems – it’s not surprising that climate change is no different. Because queer and trans youth are disproportionately likely to be unhoused (an estimated 20-40% compared to 5-10% of the total population), this puts them at higher risk of falling victim to extreme weather events. Additionally, queer and trans youth have decreased access to protection from diseases that are becoming more widespread as the planet warms. Decreased access to and discrimination within healthcare also puts LGBTQIA+ people further at risk.
Poor neighborhoods and unhoused communities (more densely populated with BIPOC & queer people) are very frequently in the parts of urban areas that have increased exposure to industrial pollution like exhaust from cars, emissions from factories and refineries, or agricultural pollution. A map created by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and California Environmental Protection Agency breaks down the levels of pollution in different districts and their respective percentage breakdowns of the race of residents. These numbers also extend to LGBTQ+ people and poor people of any race.
Living on the street or in poor neighborhoods with weaker infrastructure creates a much greater risk of experiencing the consequences of the worsened weather events that climate change is bringing. An article published by the New York Times in August of 2021 states that 600 more people than normal died due to heat-related causes during the heatwave that hit the Pacific Northwest that summer. As the planet warms and summers become hotter and hotter every year, more and more people without access to air conditioning will die. Similar cases will continue to increase in frequency during more severe winter storms, hurricanes, and floods.
Enacting policy to fix climate change is a lot of work, but there are things that you can do right now. There are several organizations across the globe that are dedicated to helping homeless members of the LGBTQ+ community, which we’ve provided a list of a few of them below. Consider donating or sharing these organizations to help minimize climate change’s impact on queer people right now.
LYRIC Center for LGBTQ+ Youth in San Francisco, CA
New Alternatives in NYC, New York, USA
Lucie’s Place in Arkansas, USA
The Albert Kennedy Trust in the United Kingdom
Schwulenberatung Berlin, Germany
Side by Side in Alameda & Marin Counties, CA
Ruby’s Place, in California, USA
Oakland LGBTQ Community Center in Alameda County, CA