Climate Change Hits African Americans Harder
- 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
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)
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