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Climate Change Hits African Americans Harder

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  • P. Neuman self only
    The 10-year average global temperature trend line since 1980 (which introduces the P & C listserv) shows that if the last 25 years is any indication of what s
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2004
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      The 10-year average global temperature trend line since 1980 (which
      introduces the P & C listserv) shows that if the last 25 years is any
      indication of what's going to continue for the rest of this century,
      temperature will rise and continue to do so. Summer
      temperatures in the Midwest are predicted to increase up to 20 degrees F,
      and Pat Neuman's study shows dewpoints are increasing significantly as

      Moreover, the impacts on the population will be felt most by the low
      income populations and minorities, such as African Americans:


      Climate Change Hits African Americans Harder

      Eli Clifton

      WASHINGTON, Jul 23 (IPS) - The impact of climate change in the United
      States is felt disproportionately by African American communities, so
      that measures to mitigate the trend would also benefit that group more
      than others, says a groundbreaking new report.

      The study, commissioned by the Centre for Policy Analysis and Research
      (CPAR), the policy arm of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBCF),
      asserts that African American communities are unfairly burdened by the
      health effects of climate change, including deaths during heat waves
      and sickness caused by growing air pollution.

      Moreover, the report, 'African Americans and Climate Change: An
      Unequal Burden', argues that African American communities, both
      historically and today, emit less greenhouse gas and are therefore
      less responsible for climate change than others.

      The study, released Wednesday, concludes that effective and successful
      policies to mitigate climate change could generate large health and
      economic benefits for African Americans.

      "This is the first ever comprehensive exam of health and climate
      change on African Americans," said Weldon J Rougeau, president of the
      Congressional Black Caucus -- a non-partisan group that advocates for
      sustainable change in African American communities -- at the release
      of the report.

      The study focuses largely on the immediate health effects felt by
      African Americans as a result of climate change.

      They include sickness caused by a reduction in air quality, deaths
      from heat waves and other extreme weather events and the spread of
      infectious diseases, according to Redefining Progress, the California
      research firm that conducted the study.

      Seventy percent of African Americans live in counties that violate
      federal air pollution standards, and in every one of the 44 major
      metropolitan areas in the United States, blacks are more likely than
      whites to be exposed to higher concentrations of toxins in the air
      they breathe, says the CBCF report.

      "(African American) communities are the canaries in the mineshaft,"
      said Michael Gelobter, executive director of Redefining Progress, at a
      press conference to release the report.

      "Children in West Oakland (a predominantly African American California
      neighbourhood) are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with asthma
      than anywhere else in the country," added Barbara Lee, a member of the
      House of Representatives from California.

      Public health disparities between white and black neighbourhoods
      across the country follow a "cradle to grave cycle", she added,
      suggesting that the administration of President George W Bush commit
      to the Kyoto Protocol.

      The protocol is a treaty negotiated by over 100 countries that calls
      for 38 of the largest industrial nations to reduce their emissions of
      the greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming -- led by carbon
      dioxide -- to 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels by 2012.

      In March 2001, Bush, a Republican, announced the United States would
      not be bound by the treaty, which had been signed by his Democratic
      predecessor Bill Clinton.

      "The current stalling and denial tactics of the Bush administration
      and congressional leadership are leaving communities, especially
      low-income communities of colour, at risk simply for the benefit of
      energy industries," David Hamilton, director of the global warming and
      energy programme at the Sierra Club, a major environmental group, told
      the news conference.

      Related health concerns, highlighted in the report, included the
      disproportionate number of deaths from extreme heat waves, in
      central-city African American communities and the spread of infectious
      diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, specifically in southern

      For example, in the 1995 Chicago heat wave mortality rates for African
      Americans were roughly 50 percent higher than whites, echoing
      statistics during a heat wave in St. Louis in 1992.

      All of these health problems are compounded by the fact that blacks
      are 50 percent more likely than non-blacks to not have health
      insurance, according to Redefining Progress statistics.

      The report also says African American workers suffer more than others
      economically from climate change. For example, they are more likely to
      be laid off due to economic instability caused by events triggered by
      climate change, such as drought.

      Furthermore, African Americans, per capita, tend to use cleaner fuels
      than other citizens, relying much more heavily on natural gas than on
      home heating oil or gasoline. African Americans used 30 percent less
      gasoline than whites, per capita, in 2002, the study says.

      But blacks are not to blame for being hit harder by climate change,
      because their households emit 20 percent less carbon dioxide than
      white households, says the report. As consumers African Americans use
      fewer products that produce carbon emissions than other Americans, it

      The study concludes that well-crafted energy policies could protect
      African Americans' health and jobs in three basic ways.

      First, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 15 percent below 1990
      levels would greatly mitigate many of the health effects of climate
      change, including air pollution-related mortalities, and save an
      estimated 10,000 African American lives a year by 2020.

      Secondly, properly designed energy policies could create large net
      benefits for African Americans. For instance, if the revenue from
      carbon charges (taxes on fossil fuel emissions) were used to offset
      distortionary taxes -- such as payroll taxes -- dramatic employment
      benefits, on the order of 800,000 to 1.4 million new jobs, would be
      felt across the country, suggests the study.

      Finally, moving the economy away from fossil fuel dependency would
      create greater economic stability for the United States, and
      significantly benefit low-income African American communities through
      job creation and labour force stability.

      Shifting from fossil fuel dependency to renewable energy sources would
      create more jobs in labour intensive industries, in which many African
      Americans are employed, and reduce the U.S.' vulnerability to
      recessions (during which African Americans are twice as likely to lose
      their jobs) added the study. (END/2004)

      Mike Neuman

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