Contrary to big polluters who deny it, climate change is real. The cost of neglect is real and incredibly high, for African Americans.
We represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet those living closest to coal-fired power plants and most exposed to their pollution are disproportionately African American. How is it that we suffer the most – higher rates of asthma attacks, premature deaths, and hundreds of thousands of missed school and work days? Furthermore our community is most likely to suffer the consequences of extreme weather due to a lack of proper heating and cooling or as in the case of Hurricane Katrina, living in poverty.
Along with cutting carbon pollution nationwide by 32 percent within 15 years, the Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000 childhood asthma attacks and 300,000 missed school or work days. By any account, that’s significant, and saves lives. To suggest anything less is to employ, once again, the age-old scare tactic on communities of color, keeping us right where we are – breathing dirty, poor quality air while misunderstanding the facts.
So who would deny and seek to discredit the negative impact of climate change? The answer is simple: those with more money than conscience and those with the most to gain politically and economically. The opposition to President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is well-funded and well-organized. Over the last few years, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been poured into a campaign to convince the public and more specifically the African American community that the President’s plan is a job killer and will only increase black folks’ electricity bills. This accusation is once again an attempt to muddy the waters and bamboozle our community. An overwhelming majority of African-Americans recognize that our communities suffer a greater burden from air pollution and climate change, than the population at large. Many of us even live on the front lines of environmental hazard and harm. And we demand a better future for our children and grandchildren.
A few short weeks ago on the campus of Morehouse College, in Atlanta, supporters of the Clean Power Plan called on Congress and other elected officials to step out of the shadows and in the words of Spike Lee ‘do the right thing’ for the most vulnerable in our community. More than 100 rallied at the Kilgore Center including my friend, Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and others to champion the cause for climate change and environmental justice.
The Atlanta rally was just one example. From coast to coast, African American faith leaders, public health officials, parents, HBCU students and socially conscience business leaders have stepped forward with great conviction to voice their support for President Obama’s plan and the health and economic benefits it will bring. In fact, 83 percent of us support limiting power plant carbon pollution under the EPA plan, according to the poll released by Green For All and the Natural Resources Defense Council. To take it a step further, the survey also found that 66 percent believe the Clean Power Plan will foster a green economy and create much-needed jobs – especially in our community. That’s great news.
We know climate change is real and it is incumbent upon us to do something about it. This is not the time for us to sit on our hands, it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and fight the good fight. We strongly stand alongside President Obama and the EPA in support of action that reverses climate change and expands the use of clean, renewable energy, and protects our communities.
And we do so because we deserve a brighter, healthier more prosperous future.