This blog post was written in collaboration with Barbara K. Hairston
There is little doubt that climate change is the greatest environmental threat of our time. While some politicians might try and pretend it's not happening, seven in every ten Americans understand that the impacts of climate change are a dangerous problem. Business leaders, social justice groups, farmers and ranchers, doctors and nurses and people from all walks of life are worried about the threat that a changing climate has on our health, our homes and our future.
We all want healthy, safe communities and opportunities, and thanks to the growing availability and affordability of clean energy like wind and solar, communities across America are learning that smart investments in sustainable energy can get us there. No longer are we at the mercy of dirty coal-burning power plants to power our homes. We can help our neighborhoods, our environment and ourselves rather than keep lining the pockets of polluters who have poisoned our communities for far too long.
This shift away from dirty energy is especially important to low-income communities and many communities of color who have been especially hard hit by toxic power plants spewing unlimited amounts of carbon and other pollutants that cause long-term harm to our lungs and worsen climate change. For families already struggling with the high costs of healthcare and the low job security, these risks are too great.
The African American community has been hard hit by injustice: ranging from violence against young people to environmental disparities that harm the health and economic stability of neighborhoods, so it's no surprise that a new national poll, commissioned by Green for All and NRDC's Voices for Climate Initiative, shows that African-Americans rate global warming and air pollution as serious problems.
While crime, economic issues and education rank as the most-serious problems for African-Americans, 60 percent see global warming as an "extremely" or "very serious problem." Importantly, 83 percent of African Americans support President Obama's Clean Power Plan designed to clean up the polluting plants that account for about 40 percent of the pollution that causes climate change.
Like all of us, the black community wants to protect their families from very real public health risks. After all, the black community has seen rates of childhood asthma increase a whopping 50% between 2001 and 2009, and in 2012, African Americans were 20 percent more likely to have asthma than non-Hispanic whites. Worse yet, in 2013, African Americans were three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than the white population.
This greater burden from the impacts of air pollution and climate change is not news to the community. While the black community is not monolithic and impacts vary by neighborhoods and socioeconomic status, more than one-third (34 percent) say that when it comes to potential harm from global warming or climate change, the black community is likely to face more harm than other Americans. When asked the same question about air pollution, more than eight times as many (43 percent) say the black community faces "more" harm.
The good news is that the black community is ready to act to tackle this problem. The survey found a greater desire for action on global warming than non-black adults nationwide. And a large majority, 82 percent, want states to develop their own approaches for limiting carbon pollution.
African-Americans also recognize that a shift to clean energy will lower energy costs and create jobs. Two-thirds of those surveyed say that increasing the use of renewable energy sources will create new jobs - six times more than the proportion who say that it will result in job losses. And more than half (57 percent) believe that shifting to sources such as wind and solar power will reduce their energy costs.
This points to an opportunity to bring black leadership to bear on this critical issue as policy makers seek bold yet nuanced approaches to greening neighborhoods while resisting gentrification. Thanks to smart policies like the Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency is ramping up efforts to fight carbon pollution and reduce the public health risks that come with it.
This poll shows that African-Americans strongly and broadly support for action to address global warming and promote the use of clean energy. By reducing dangerous carbon pollution now, we can help improve our health today and provide a healthier, more sustainable future for the next generation of all Americans and clean up the power plant pollution that has for too long disproportionately harmed black communities. #ActonClimate