Inter Press News Service Agency
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.