Recent weather-related events have made it all too clear that climate change is real and it is really changing where people choose to live. As the sea level rises in coastal areas filled with higher-income people, higher-elevation cities are seeing a tidal wave of their own.

A New Wave

Cars in Chicago metro area flooded
Flooding in Chicago. Credit: Getty Images.

Communities that have experienced generational disinvestment in infrastructure and racism are facing the threat of climate gentrification.

Climate gentrification is when higher-income people move to higher-elevation communities, these communities are usually home to Black, Brown, and lower-income people, to escape weather-related issues.

As wealthier people move away from their ocean views and on-demand boat life to escape erosion, flooding, and harsher storms caused by climate change, the impact is being felt by Black, Brown, and low-income communities. The wave of wealthier people moving into low-income communities drives up property value, low income residents are pushed out or forced into vulnerable neighborhoods, resulting in climate gentrification.

Tranquil Waters

A brown pelican in water
Wildlife like this Brown pelican rely on the waters in Palm Beach to thrive. Photo by Bureau of Land Management.

There are ways to deal with climate change beyond fleeing to higher ground. Cities can make sure that residents are in on the process and policies to help move their communities forward in the face of climate change.

The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) has taken a firm stance against gentrification and climate change. Mayor Keith James, Mayor of West Palm Beach, Florida is already making changes to adjust to coastal climate change. 

“The City is making progress addressing climate challenges, such as rain-induced flooding and sea-level rise, to enhance our community’s viability now and in the future,” said West Palm Beach Mayor Keith A. James. “While there is more work to be done, we appreciate this acknowledgment of our progress to date. Making the CDP’s A-list affirms the City is on the right track and taking the necessary climate actions needed to transition toward a climate-safe future. I applaud the City’s Office of Sustainability for their great work on behalf of the West Palm Beach community.”

Coastal cities like West Palm Beach are in need of permanent solutions that address long-term affordable housing so that residents are not priced out of their homes. The National Wildlife Federation has been on the frontline battling environmental injustice and protecting our nation’s wildlife in this face of climate change. Their strong stance on investing in and creating new infrastructure, both natural and physical, has helped Black, Brown, and low-income communities.