Unequal impact: The deep links between racism and climate change

by Beth Gardiner, Yale Environment 360


Elizabeth Yeampierre, co-chair of Climate Justice Alliance, shares the correlation between the United States’ racist past and the current climate crisis

  • Climate movements typically center around conversation and protecting wildlife while not advocating for the protection of Black and Brown people who are directly impacted by climate change and environmental racism
  • Climate change stems all the way back to colonial times, where indigenous lands were exploited and used for extraction of natural resources in the name of capitalism
  • The treatment of Black and Indigenous people present-day can be compared to the early days of America, where enslaved people were given poor housing and food
  • The communities impacted by COVID are the same ones experiencing pollution, and they will continue to feel the worst effects of the climate crisis
  • Policies, such as the Green New Deal, must include frontline leaders and frontline communities in order to better serve all people
  • A just transition of labor must look at the process and impacts of achieving sustainability to ensure that frontline communities are not experiencing more pollution in pursuit of sustainability

The Climate Center’s urgent climate policy goals will only be achieved if we also close the climate gap and ensure that communities of color are no longer disproportionately harmed. There cannot be climate justice without racial justice.

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Bold and just climate policy needed now: Support Climate-Safe California

The COVID-19 crisis, while devastating on many levels, has also increased trust in science and the role of government, essential to reversing the climate crisis.

We are (re)learning that we ignore science at our peril and advance preparation saves lives. As a society, COVID-19 is giving us a taste of what’s to come if we do not take significant steps to flatten the climate curve very soon.

Your generous gift today supports The Climate Center’s urgent efforts to flatten the climate curve fast, as the latest science demands.

Working from home–and in too many cases, losing jobs and having no options but to remain at home– has led to projections that global emissions could drop by more than 5.5% this year.

But even a 10% drop would result in warming emissions that are “higher than in any year before 2010. Emissions cuts in 2020 alone will, therefore, have little impact, unless they are followed by longer-lasting changes.”

COVID has spread lightning fast and unemployment has quickly skyrocketed. Similarly, the effects of climate change are hitting us harder and faster than ever before

With 9 of 15 global tipping points already activated, what we do today can either unleash an inhospitable hothouse Earth or secure a climate-safe future.

Although numerous organizations have been working on climate for many years, the speed at which the crisis is growing surpasses current efforts. We urgently need to make climate policy progress commensurate with the worsening climate reality.

Per the latest science, massive reductions of warming emissions with the beginning of drawdown from the atmosphere are required by 2030 to prevent catastrophic impacts. Our only hope is to enact bold policies now, not decades later.

The Climate Center’s new Climate-Safe California campaign aims to do just this.

Climate-Safe California is a powerful, comprehensive, and unique science-driven campaign, filling a major gap within today’s climate movement.

We must ensure that California commits soon to achieving drawdown greater than emissions (net-negative emissions) and resilient communities by 2030.

The time is now to enact the bold climate policies required by science to avoid catastrophic impacts, starting here in the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Establishing this critical deadline sets the stage for enacting a range of new policies to achieve massive greenhouse gas reductions, major increases in sequestration on working and natural lands with biodiversity and resilience co-benefits, and significant support to all of California’s communities to plan for and enact resilience measures.

Achieving Climate-Safe California’s vision is not a question of IF or WHEN. We have no choice but to make this a reality now to secure a healthy, vibrant future for all.

We are only as resilient as the most vulnerable, another stark lesson from COVID-19.

Indeed, we will only achieve these urgent goals by committing to enacting climate-safe policies that ensure lower-income communities are no longer disproportionately harmed. We understand that there cannot be climate justice without racial justice. 

We also understand that we will only achieve these urgent goals by securing a just transition for workers whose livelihoods depend on fossil fuel industries.

Your support of Climate-Safe California will help ensure that state policy timelines are accelerated while securing an equitable and just transition to a clean energy future.

As goes California, so goes the world. Climate-Safe California will catalyze global action to help secure a healthy, vibrant future for all.

As Congressman Jared Huffman, who enthusiastically joined almost 200 other endorsers, wrote:

 “I applaud Climate-Safe California for recognizing that solving our climate crisis requires setting the bar high enough to actually meet the challenge. I endorse this effort to keep California on that course, leading our country and the world toward climate solutions.”

COVID-19 has demonstrated that both individual actions and coordinated government action are essential. Governments have acted unusually fast, investing unbudgeted trillions into addressing the pandemic. The same must happen to solve the climate crisis.

Accelerating government policy timelines and increasing investments are key to channeling market forces that will ultimately allow everyone to participate in the clean energy economy.

Key to changing government policies is building a cross-sectoral, unified movement focused on timely climate action. Collectively, we will ensure that our leaders in Sacramento do the right thing.

Toward that end, The Climate Center team is working to secure endorsements, establish a diverse statewide alliance that bridges climate action silos, build clout in Sacramento, engage experts to develop policy pathway options, mobilize climate opinion leaders, and develop grassroots partners in key geographies of the state.  

We’ve met with almost 100 organizations, experts, and opinion leaders. We’ve hired specialists in policy and labor. We’ve secured support in the Governor’s revised budget to help local communities plan for clean energy and backup storage in anticipation of expanding fire seasons.

We’re gaining momentum and we need your help to keep moving forward!

Join us today by making your most generous gift to Climate-Safe California. Our future depends on it!

At a time when many nonprofits and businesses are cutting back due to COVID-19, our board recently recommitted to growing The Climate Center’s extraordinary efforts.

Thanks to you, we successfully demonstrated that speed and scale greenhouse gas reductions are achievable in California.

With your help, The Climate Center played a key role in facilitating the phenomenal growth of Community Choice Energy from just two agencies five years ago to 21 today—now serving 88% fossil-fuel-free energy to 11 million Californians, one-quarter of the state

We are building on this amazing success by collaborating with a wide range of interests from business and local government to labor and environmental justice groups across the state.

Together we will reshape our future—the healthy, vibrant, equitable, and climate-safe future that is still possible if we act today! 

“Climate-Safe California is the bold pathway that leads toward shared prosperity on a healthy planet – exactly what California and the world need now,” as L. Hunter Lovins, President of Natural Capitalism Solutions and Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder noted in her endorsement.

Please dig deep and be as generous as possible with a gift today (or mail to PO Box 3785, Santa Rosa, CA 95402). And please endorse Climate-Safe California today if you haven’t yet!

With your support, we will continue to advance our work to secure a climate-safe future for all. Thank you!

The Climate Movement’s silence on racism

by Emily Atkin, Heated


As protests and demonstrations occur throughout the world in response to the murder of George Floyd, some environmental groups have responded in solitary while many other activists and groups have remained silent.  

  • Groups such as the Sierra Club and white climate activists like Greta Thunberg have all spoken out in solidarity. However, other activists like Al Gore or groups such as Citizens Climate Lobby have remained silent on the issue.
  • Liz Havstad, the executive director of Hip Hop Caucus, says it doesn’t make sense for climate groups not to stand in solidarity:

“The burden of the issues that you’re working on are falling harder on all people color, and particularly Black people…Unless you’re willing to solve the roots of that disproportionate impact, you’re not solving anything at all.”

  • The lack of support for the black community plays a role in why black people are underrepresented in mainstream environmental groups, are less likely to participate in outdoor recreation, and are less likely to label themselves as environmentalists
  • Various environmental groups do not see racial inequality as an intersectional movement and have been reluctant to address racism within the climate movement

The impacts of climate change are hitting harder and faster than expected, posing grave threats to human health and well-being. Lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by exposure to pollution from our fossil fuel economy. Climate Justice involves a climate safe future for all people from all backgrounds and neighborhoods.

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Coronavirus is not just a health crisis — it’s an environmental justice crisis


There are large disparities in COVID-19 deaths among people who have historically faced environmental justice issues within the US. 

  • African-American communities have historically been disproportionately housed near sources of large pollution, particularly in the South, leading these communities to develop asthma, cancers, and other respiratory problems
  • This life long exposure has lead to more COVID-19 deaths as poor air quality increases fatality from the virus 
  • Health experts particularly worried that overcrowded housing, lack of health insurance, and workplace exposure in jobs like agriculture will cause the number of cases to skyrocket within some latinx communities 
  • Lack of access to safe drinking water and underfunded health care are issues impacting infection rates within the Navajo Nation
  • Political scientist Fatemeh Shafiei, director of environmental studies at Spelman College, has found that low-income residents and people of color are disproportionately exposed to health-threatening environments in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces throughout their lives
  • Eliminating pollution exposure, and ultimately structural inequalities within the country, would dramatically improve the health and safety of these marginalized communities and lower the risk of COVID-related deaths

Lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by exposure to pollution from our fossil fuel economy through proximity to oil and gas wells, oil refineries, major highways, and other industrial areas. The Climate Center works to secure a healthy, vibrant, and equitable future for everyone in these communities

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