Earth Day is on Thursday, so this seems like an especially good time to report on climate change and its disproportionate impacts on vulnerable communities of color.
A new study – “Minding the Climate Gap: What’s at Stake if California’s Climate Law isn’t Done Right and Right Away” – states that if the state’s climate law, AB 32, is not implemented, people of color and the poor will lose the most.
During a teleconference regarding the study last week, researchers Rachel Morello Frosch and Manuel Pastor described some frustrating – but not surprising – statistics, such as:
- People of color – including African Americans, Latinos, and Asians – are more likely to live close to polluting facilities than white people, at each and every level of income.
- People of color – especially African Americans – experience over 70 percent more of the dangerous pollution coming from major greenhouse gas polluters than whites with similar incomes.
The study focused mainly on facilities in urban communities, where sites emitting greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution could cause heat waves and “urban heat islands” in places with little green space.
But during the teleconference, the researchers noted that other types of facilities and operations (especially agricultural operations) located in rural areas also significantly contribute to greenhouse gas and air pollution. These rural facilities also disproportionately impact the health of people of color, they said.
The researcher’s message was straightforward: If we get California’s climate change law right, by minding the climate gap, and move forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will make very important strides in protecting the health of everyone, especially vulnerable communities suffering disproportionately from air pollution now.”