The American Red Cross has announced an ambitious plan to lead the climate crisis fight, which is upending lives and devastating entire communities as the frequency and intensity of extreme weather rapidly increases around the globe. With more climate-driven disasters, the organization is racing to adapt its services and grow its disaster response capacity across the country.
“As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network and a national leader in disaster relief, the American Red Cross is uniquely positioned to provide support to those who are threatened by climate-driven extreme weather,” said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. “I can tell you firsthand that our changing climate is a humanitarian crisis for the communities and people we serve, and as fast as we are working to adapt, the needs are escalating faster. There is no time to wait.”
Over the next several years, the Red Cross needs to spend at least $1 billion on its climate crisis work, which encompasses disaster relief, new international programs on climate response and preparedness, and sustainability efforts to minimize its own environmental footprint. This work is occurring even as the organization simultaneously responds to back-to-back disasters and readies for Idalia, which takes aim at the Gulf Coast this week.
The need to help has never been greater. During National Preparedness Month this September, join us to deliver help and hope to families facing climate disasters. Learn about volunteer opportunities at redcross.org/VolunteerToday, or make a financial donation to help people affected by disasters big and small, including climate-driven crises, at redcross.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters.
MOUNTING DISASTER RESPONSES
The Red Cross is responding to nearly twice as many large disasters in the U.S. as it did a decade ago. Right now, they are readying volunteers and supplies along the Gulf Coast in advance of Idalia, even as we remain on the ground helping communities recover from the deadliest wildfires of the last century in Hawaii, a powerful typhoon in the U.S. territory of Guam, and 1-in-100-year flooding in the Northeast, among others.
In the first half of 2023 alone, the nation experienced a record 15 billion-dollar disasters, including catastrophic atmospheric rivers in California and deadly tornadoes in the South and Midwest — all on top of extreme heat, which made July the country’s hottest single month on record. What’s more, the U.S. is just now entering its typical peak time for hurricanes and wildfires.
“Not that long ago, the Red Cross largely operated our responses by seasonal outbreaks — hurricane season, wildfire season, storm season,” McGovern added. “Those seasons no longer exist as we once knew them. The Red Cross is now responding to climate-driven disasters almost every day of the year.”
Furthermore, the climate crisis is taking a heavier toll on frontline communities, who are often left vulnerable. Due to these relentless disasters, low-income families, older adults, diverse communities and people with disabilities experience an increased risk of poverty and heightened struggles with accessing support for chronic housing, hunger and health challenges. Additionally, when forced from their homes by disasters, they typically are unable to return for longer periods of time compared to others.
That’s why the team is undertaking this transformational effort and asking for help to ensure it can continue to serve those affected by disasters — equitably, compassionately and thoughtfully.
ADAPTING TO THE CLIMATE CRISIS
As extreme weather disasters increase, more people will need help from the Red Cross. The organization is taking bold and thoughtful actions to adapt its services and grow its capacity to help the most vulnerable. The organization is working to:
- Enhance large-scale disaster response services by bolstering the aid provided in emergency shelters and extending casework support to help people with the most recovery needs.
- Expand financial assistance to help more families with unmet needs and bridge the gap between immediate disaster relief and long-term recovery assistance.
- Strengthen local partner networks in targeted areas that face a high risk of extreme weather and existing societal inequities with a focus on increasing access to health and mental health services, nutritious food and safe housing for local families.
- Grow its disaster workforce — comprised of 90% trained volunteers — to deepen its disaster readiness. This includes fortifying the critical infrastructure and technology that enables 24/7 response to disasters across the country.
Many nations within the global Red Cross network face significant and urgent risks from extreme weather but may not have the resources to ensure their most vulnerable communities are prepared. The American Red Cross is creating new programs in partner countries to reduce climate disaster risks in urban areas, institutionalize pre-disaster preparedness actions, and train and engage youth leaders.
As the climate crisis continues to worsen, the American Red Cross is also continuing to minimize its environmental impact by making significant changes to its operations by slashing emissions, cutting waste and lowering water usage to reduce its impact on the planet.
HOW TO STAY SAFE WHEN DISASTERS STRIKE With the increasing threat of climate disasters, including the strengthening storm in the Gulf, it’s more important than ever during National Preparedness Month to prepare yourself and your loved ones for crises that could happen in your community. Visit redcross.org/prepare for information on how to take three simple and lifesaving actions now — get a kit, make a plan and be informed — or download the free Red Cross Emergency app, which also provides real-time weather alerts, open Red Cross disaster shelter locations and more.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER IMPACTS TO THE NATIONAL BLOOD SUPPLY The Red Cross has seen a significant shortfall in blood and platelet donations over the last month, making it hard to keep pace with the need for blood products. Blood and platelet donations that go uncollected due to climate-related events, such as hurricanes, wildfires and extreme heat, can put further strain on the national blood supply. As extreme weather events are worsening, the Red Cross is seeing that translate into more blood drive cancellations. In 2022, over 1,300 blood drives were canceled due to weather — about 23% higher than the average of the prior nine years.
In thanks for helping ensure the nation’s blood supply is prepared for all emergencies, from disasters to medical emergencies, all who come to give blood, platelets or plasma Sept. 1-18 will receive a limited-edition Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last. Those who come to give throughout September will also receive a coupon for a free haircut by email, thanks to Sport Clips Haircuts. Details are available at rcblood.org/racetogive. Donors can schedule an appointment to donate using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, by visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). If you are unable to give blood, you can volunteer to support blood collections. Visit redcross.org/VolunteerToday to learn more.