Report: Global Warming Disproportionately Affects African Americans, Low-Income Communities

by Kimberley D. Mok, Montreal, Canada on 10.22.08

Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative photoImage: EJCC website

Though it may have struck you already, a recent report corroborates what some advocates and the Hurricane Katrina debacle are making painfully clear: that people of colour are disproportionately affected by climate change and related disasters.

Titled A Climate of Change: African Americans, Global Warming, and a Just Climate Policy for the U.S. and co-authored by the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative and Redefining Progress, the report analyzes data such as per capita carbon emissions, vulnerability to natural disasters, energy price increases, share of war costs and housing inequalities. The report’s findings show that though global warming affects everyone, existing inequalities are consistently amplified through unjust climate policies and lack of representation.

The report recommends five policies that will lead to environmental health and economic security, not just for African Americans, but for all people living in the U.S.:

1. A polluter-pays fee, tax, or allowance auction;
2. Substantial investments in energy efficiency;
3. Low-income offsets though a mix of income-support, energy assistance, and energy-efficiency programs;
4. Revenue recycling through taxes and transfers or high value public investment such as schools; and
5. Leakage/job-loss prevention measures for electricity and energy-intensive goods

“Even though this report focuses on African Americans, the data will be very similar for Latinos, Indigenous people, and low-income people,” says Nia Robinson, director the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative. “This is a starting point to engage lawmakers about the needs of our communities for climate change and energy legislation.”

The report highlights the need for “climate justice [as] common justice,” where institutionalized racism and classism can be effectively addressed through broader cross-alliances working together for sounder and more-inclusive environmental policies. It made sense during the second wave of feminism during the seventies when the focus shifted from a mostly white, affluent constituency to later incorporating concerns of gender inequality more specific to race and class – and it makes sense now that environmentalism also needs to expand its reach to succeed as a movement.

As the director of the Sustainable Economics program at Redefining Progress, J. Andrew Hoerner, explains, “It is broad-based coalitions of environmental, economic, and social justice —and not special interests—that will create equitable climate policy.”

Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative
and Redefining Progress (full PDF report here)

Related Links on Race, Class and Environmentalism
The TH Interview: Van Jones - Founder of Green For All
National Initiative to Create 250,000 Green-Collar Jobs for Urban America
Quote of the Day: Van Jones on the Green-Collar Solution
Green Jobs Now Day of Action: America is Ready For a New Green Economy
Green Jobs Now! Campiagn Promotes "Home Energy Makeovers" to Stimulate Green Economy
Vanity Fair: The Unbearable Whiteness Of Green (Huffington Post)
Van Jones - Accusing the Green Economy of Elitism ( video)]]>