CLIMATE JUSTICE

CLIMATE JUSTICE

“Climate change is happening now and to all of us. No country or community is immune,”  said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “And, as is always the case, the poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer and the worst hit.”

Of course, climate change affects everyone, but it disproportionately affects minority and low-income communities in the United States. These communities are often least able to prepare for, or recover from, heat waves, poor air quality, flooding, and other impacts, according to EPA administrator Michael S. Regan. Race is —even more than class -- the number one indicator for the location of toxic facilities in this country hit by climate change.

You might want to watch an extremely effective video (released in 2017 by ProPublica) on this subject, detailing our history of environmental justice.

This section, CLIMATE JUSTICE, explores “the climate crisis through a human rights lens”, emphasizing the need for climate justice to be recognized as an integral part of the fight against climate change. In order to create long lasting change to support the environment for future generations, we need to accept environmental injustice in our country as a significant part of the problem. 

“Insist on a shift from a discourse on greenhouse gases and melting ice caps into a civil rights movement with the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts at its heart,” said Mary Robinson who is no stranger in the world of politics and human rights.

CURRENT NEWS

KEY RESOURCES

A Brief History of Environmental Justice

09/21/22
Landfills, chemical waste facilities and power plants are more often built in poor and minority communities, which don't have the power or money to advocate for themselves. For decades, these communities have called for environmental…

What is ‘climate justice’?

09/21/22
Climate change, an inherently social issue, can upset anyone’s daily life in countless ways. But not all climate impacts are created equal, or distributed equally. From extreme weather to rising sea levels, the effects of…

EPA Report Shows Disproportionate Impacts of Climate Change on Socially Vulnerable Populations in the United States

09/21/22
A new EPA analysis released today shows that the most severe harms from climate change fall disproportionately upon underserved communities who are least able to prepare for, and recover from, heat waves, poor air quality,…

Environmental Justice

09/21/22
Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Air pollution exposure disparities across US population and income groups

01/12/22
Air pollution contributes to the global burden of disease, with ambient exposure to fine particulate matter of diameters smaller than 2.5μm (PM 2.5 ) being identified as the fifth-ranking risk factor for mortality globally 1…

FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Releases Agency Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plans from Across Federal Government

10/07/21
The Biden-Harris Administration released plans developed by more than 20 federal agencies that outline the steps each agency will take to ensure their facilities and operations adapt to and are increasingly resilient to climate change…

Environmental & Climate Justice

06/11/20
Environmental injustice, including the proliferation of climate change, has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low income communities in the United States and around the world. The NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program…

WE ACT for Environmental Justice

02/12/20
WE ACT’s mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices.

Climate Justice Alliance

01/17/20
The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) formed in 2013 to create a new center of gravity in the climate movement by uniting frontline communities and organizations into a formidable force. Our translocal organizing strategy and mobilizing…

Earthjustice

09/06/19
Earth Justice fights for a vibrant, livable future by: securing national and global rules to cut carbon through work in the courts, Congress and via international negotiations to secure real, enforceable cuts in climate pollution;…

MORE NEWS

Storm Impacts Continue to Show Inequitable Harms of Climate Change

By Nexus Media   09/22/22  
Multiple new reports continue to reveal how historically excluded groups were hurt by systemic inequities exacerbated by Hurricane Ida. Entergy, the utility that supplies electricity to much of southeastern Louisiana, raked in a record $1.4…

The U.S. safety net was built for cold winters. Hot summers threaten it.

By Dino Grandoni and Others  Photo: William DeShazer, The Washington Post   09/17/22  
The moment NeedLink Nashville opened its doors just after Labor Day weekend, Melissa Besong entered the nonprofit’s office holding her overdue electric bill. Four months after losing her job as a home health aide, she…

Jackson’s Water Crisis Is a Climate Justice Wake-Up Call

By Alajandro De La Garza  Photo: Brad Vest, Getty Images   09/15/22  
n Jackson, Miss., residents were already boiling their water for a month before their taps ran dry at the end of August. That’s when floodwaters from heavy rain overwhelmed the city’s fragile water treatment system,…

At 75, the Father of Environmental Justice Meets the Moment

By Cara Buckley  Photo: Michael Starghill Jr., The New York Times   09/12/22  
He’s known as the father of environmental justice, but more than half a century ago he was just Bob Bullard from Elba, a flyspeck town deep in Alabama that didn’t pave roads, install sewers or…

Disconnected and ‘dehumanized’: How thousands across Phoenix survive without running water

By Zayna Syed  Photo: Antranik Tavitian, The Republic   09/11/22  
Tim Wiedman caught COVID-19 last December. A few days later, he developed bronchitis. A double whammy, he called it. The illnesses sapped his energy so much that, for six weeks, he could barely get off…

Mississippi’s Water Crisis Is a ‘Textbook Case’ of Environmental Racism

By Susmita Baral  Photo: Brad Vest/Getty Images   09/09/22  
A water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, left the city's 160,000 residents without safe drinking water. The catastrophe spotlights how climate change is actively threatening water supplies and, at its core, is a case of environmental…

Racism Robbed This Historically Black California Town of Its Water. Now, They’re Developing Water of Their Own

By Teresa Cotsirilos  Photo: Craig Kohlruss, Fern   09/09/22  
Valeria Contreras’ phone started ringing on a bustling Saturday last February, when she was driving past almond and pistachio orchards on an errand run. Some callers sounded panicked. Others were just upset. "Where’s the water?"…

Was the Climate Law a Win for Environmental Justice? It’s Complicated

By Brentin Mock  Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images   08/30/22  
Environmental justice (EJ) advocates — defenders of communities that are most disproportionately impacted by climate change and pollution — are divided on the big climate bill that recently became law. But most can agree on…

Surrounded by fossil fuels, they fear climate bill leaves them behind

By Sarah Kaplan  Photo: Tamir Kalifa, Washington Post   08/27/22  
On any given day at the Prince Hall apartment complex, the breeze might carry soot and stink of burning tar. Black smoke might billow overhead as excess gas is burned at one of the refineries…

Harvey Hit 5 Years Ago. Its Floodwaters Did Not Strike Equitably.

By Elana Shao  Photo: David J. Phillip, Associated Press   08/25/22  
Up to 50 percent of the properties that were flooded in Harris County, Texas, during Hurricane Harvey might have escaped that fate in a world without climate change, scientists reported on Thursday.

Wildfire smoke is choking Indigenous communities

By Diana Kruzman  Photo: Diana Kruzman and Others, Grist   08/24/22  
On July 29, 2021, Li Boyd woke up to the smell of smoke. It was her birthday — she was turning 38 — and she had rented a boat to take her parents and aunts…

What’s In A Name?

By Dan Calverley and Others   08/23/22  
It’s now thirty years since the United Nation’s first major Earth Summit (Rio 1992) recognised the urgent challenges posed by anthropogenic climate change. Yet, in responding to these challenges we, as a global society, have…

The TVA is dumping a mountain of coal ash in Black south Memphis

By Darryl Fears  Photo: Brandon Dill, The Washington Post   08/19/22  
MEMPHIS — It’s rare for a Black community to notch a win against a large industrial polluter, but that’s what happened on this city’s south side. Residents stood up to a proposal by two oil…

FACT SHEET: How the Inflation Reduction Act Helps Latino Communities

08/16/22  
By signing the Inflation Reduction Act, President Biden is delivering on his promise to build an economy that works for working families, including Latino communities. The Inflation Reduction Act lowers prescription drug costs, health care…

Tribes and water protectors ward off new Black Hills gold rush

By Talli Nauman  Photo: Karen Ellison, Black Hills Clean Water Alliance   08/11/22  
The moment the U.S. Forest Service posted its July notice of a draft decision to permit gold prospecting at Jenny Gulch here in the Black Hills, tribes, water protectors and treaty rights defenders turned out…

Inflation Reduction Act Commits Just $47 Billion to Environmental Justice, Activists Say

By Kristoffer Tigue  Photo: Marc Preel, Getty Images   08/09/22  
Senate Democrats could be “overcounting” the funding for environmental justice provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act and misrepresenting the bill’s benefits for low-income families, communities of color and other historically disadvantaged Americans, according to a…

The unequal impact of climate change

07/14/22  
Cities everywhere are preparing for extreme weather, but there's one concern they all share: climate change will impact low-income communities the hardest. This video shows how heat waves affect low-income Atlanta residents.

Funds for climate justice flow to groups around the U.S.

By Drew Costley  Photo: Carlos Osorio   06/29/22  
Fourteen environmental justice organizations from around the United States have begun to receive money under the Justice40 initiative, a business accelerator announced Wednesday. The Justice40 Accelerator said the groups will receive some $3 million for…

At least 50 people found dead in abandoned 18-wheeler in San Antonio

By Jaden Edison and Others  Photo: Nick Wagner   06/27/22  
A tractor-trailer found near Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio contained the bodies of 50 dead people, along with 16 others who have been taken to hospitals, according to local officials in San Antonio…

One family, three generations of cancer, and the largest concentration of oil refineries in California

By Adam Mahoney  Photo: Pablo Unzueta   06/22/22  
When I visited Christina Gonzalez and her family in April, she sat slumped in her family’s worn black faux-leather couch, trying to recall which explosion had shaken her neighborhood the most. The seven decades they’ve…

Racism drives environmental inequality — but most Americans don’t realize

By Brittney J. Miller  Photo: John Parra , Getty Images   06/14/22  
But Bugden found that respondents to the survey were more than twice as likely to identify poverty as the main cause of environmental inequalities, instead of blaming structural racism. This is despite scientific evidence clearly…

What Environmental Justice Looks Like (And Why It Matters) | Opinion

By Raul Grijalva & Others  Photo: Bryan R. Smith , Getty Images   06/09/22  
The Biden administration's recent announcement of a Justice Department effort to hold industrial polluters accountable for damage done to communities of color, Indigenous and low-income communities is an important step forward. For too long, these…

Mapping tools help Ohio cities chart course for environmental justice

By Kathiann M. Kowalski   05/25/22  
Government and community groups in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati have recently used one particularly robust tool called the Greenlink Equity Map, or GEM, platform. Its maps let users see the intersections among roughly three dozen…

Block-by-block data shows pollution’s stark toll on people of color

By Darryl Fears  Photo: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times/Getty Images   05/25/22  
Finding the most polluted places in the San Francisco Bay area is simple, a new air quality analysis shows: Locate places where mostly Black, Latino, Asian and low-income residents live, and pay them a visit.

Justice Dept. Tries to Shift Environmental Justice Efforts From Symbolic to Substantive

By Glenn Thrush and Lisa Friedman  Photo: Audra Melton , The New York Times   05/12/22  
The Biden administration’s choice of Lowndes as the site of its first big environmental justice inquiry was based on the magnitude of the county’s problems. But it also sent a message. The county was a…

Cancer-causing gas emission spikes continue at refineries

By Sean Reilly  Photo: Brandon Bell , Getty Images   05/12/22  
On its website, Marathon Petroleum Corp. touts a commitment to the environment that transcends run-of-the-mill regulatory compliance.

Black communities are last in line for disaster planning in Texas

By Tracy Jan  Photo: Juan Lozano , AP   05/12/22  
During heavy storms, water overflows the dirt drainage ditch fronting his yard and the bayou at the end of his block — flooding the street, creeping up his front steps, pooling beneath the house, and…

Environmental Racism: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

05/02/22  
John Oliver discusses environmental racism, how both government and industry are failing people of color, and pandas.

Climate change and the third world, in New Mexico

By Marjorie Childress   04/30/22  
In reporting two recent stories about abandoned uranium mines north of Church Rock, N.M., I heard residents say several times that they want federal officials to take action, not just more talk about cleaning up…

‘Existential Threat’: Indigenous Leaders Urge Citigroup to Stop Backing Amazon Oil

By Rachel Sherrington  Photo: Geoff Gallice   04/28/22  
Indigenous leaders have called on Citigroup to stop financing oil and gas projects in the Amazon, saying the bank’s activities contradict its climate pledges by putting the threatened ecosystem at greater risk.

Study Links the Location of Oil and Gas Wells with Redlined Neighborhoods

By Terry E. Cohen   04/25/22  
In the U.S., April commemorates Fair Housing Month, the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and the now-global Earth Day. This year, those events find a fitting relationship in a sobering new study published…

HBCU students, faculty press urgent need for climate action

By Drew Costley  Photo: Drew Costley , AP News   04/16/22  
Both joy and frustration are in the air in New Orleans at the HBCU Climate Change Conference this week as environmental and climate advocates and researchers from around the United States press for urgent climate…

The Promise of the Environmental Justice For All Act

By Yukyan Lam and Sara Imperiale   04/08/22  
The Environmental Justice for All Act (EJ for All Act) is an essential federal legislative effort to begin remedying the long history of environmental racism and injustice in the United States, including the cumulative and…

12 books on racial, gender, and environmental/climate justice

By Michael Svoboda   04/06/22  
Overshadowed though it is by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released on February 28th, still made news – and not just for its updated, and grimmer,…

Indigenous, Black and Communities of Color Fighting for Environmental Justice

04/05/22  
The Ash Center Institutional Antiracism and Accountability (IARA) Project and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (HPAIED) held a JFK Jr. Forum on April 4, 2022 about how racial and climate justice intersect.…

The women who fight for climate justice

03/30/22  
As the climate crisis escalates, we see the convergence of gender and climate. Past IPCC reports have noted that those already most vulnerable and marginalized will experience the climate crisis first and worst. In particular,…

Op-Ed: How can the White House fix environmental injustice if it won’t take race into account?

By Alvaro Sanchez and Manuel Pastor  Photo: Carolyn Cole , Los Angeles Times   03/18/22  
In mid-February, when the White House unveiled the beta version of its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, it was met by sharp criticism from environmental justice advocates: A mapping tool designed to identify disadvantaged…

US says $100 billion soon to help poor nations with climate

By Edith M. Lederer   03/10/22  
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday he thinks rich countries can finally meet their pledge to provide $100 billion annually to help poor nations cope with climate change beginning this year — and will…

How Air Pollution Across America Reflects Racist Policy From the 1930s

By Raymond Zhong and Nadja Popovich  Photo: Jeff Chiu , Associated Press   03/09/22  
Urban neighborhoods that were redlined by federal officials in the 1930s tended to have higher levels of harmful air pollution eight decades later, a new study has found, adding to a body of evidence that…

Demographics of emissions

03/09/22  
Meeting climate targets requires emissions reductions. If we consider the carbon footprint of individuals, the current global per capita value of 3.2 tCO2 exceeds the calculated 1.6–2.8 tCO2 required to limit warming to 1.5–2 °C. Individuals…

Women of Color Are Leading Climate Justice Work

By Jessica Kutz  Photo : John Lamparsky , AP   03/03/22  
When winter storm Uri hit Houston last February, widespread power outages resulted in residents going days without heat and electricity. Almost half of Texans lost access to clean drinking water.

Colorado River, stolen by law

By Pauly Denetclaw  Photo: Gabriella Trujillo/High Country News   03/01/22  
Indigenous nations have been an afterthought in U.S. water policy for over a century. That was all part of the plan.

Why Environmental Justice Is Crucial in Climate Resilience: Just Look at New Sea Rise Predictions

By Ezra David Romero  Photo: Beth LaBerge , KQED   02/23/22  
The county in California most at risk from sea level rise is San Mateo, with nearly 100,000 people — half residents of color — living just three feet above the high-tide line. If climate models…

3 takeaways from GWMS on the future of environmental justice, greenhouse gas emissions and leachate at landfills

By Megan Quinn   02/23/22  
As landfill operators plan for a future with stricter regulations, more environmental justice considerations and uncertainties about PFAS and other contaminants, speakers at the Global Waste Management Symposium (GWMS) offered new guidance for adjusting to…

Why Black Climate Week Absolutely Matters

By Leon Kaye   02/23/22  
No, those photos you saw from past Climate Week NYC events and similar gatherings over the years weren’t washed out: They were just overall very white. Despite the data confirming that communities of color are…

New White House climate justice screening tool excludes race to avoid legal challenges, officials say

By Drew Costley  Photo: Carolyn Kaster   02/21/22  
The Biden administration on Friday released a screening tool to help identify disadvantaged communities long plagued by environmental hazards, but it won't include race as a factor in deciding where to devote resources.

Velshi: We need to prioritize environmental justice in our efforts to fight climate change

By Ali Velshi   02/19/22  
Natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires – all made worse by the climate crisis – have something in common: they disproportionately cripple poor, Black and minority communities. Dozens of studies demonstrate how climate-aggravated natural…

Centering Equity to Address Extreme Heat

By Rebecca Marx and Jorge Morales-Burnett   02/18/22  
Extreme heat cannot be addressed without considering equity. Its impact is not felt equally across communities. The legacy of racist housing policies and historic

Race Excluded as WH Rolls Out Climate Justice Screening Tool

By Associated Press  Photo: Carolyn Kaster , AP File Photo   02/18/22  
The Biden administration has released a screening tool to help identify disadvantaged communities long plagued by environmental hazards, but it won’t include race as a factor in deciding where to devote resources.

Addressing Extreme Heat Will Require an Intentional Focus on Equity

By Jorge Morales-Burnett and Rebecca Marx   02/16/22  
Extreme heat is the deadliest weather-related hazard in the United States—a fact that historically has gone underrecognized. Experts consider heat a silent killer, resulting in more than 600 deaths per year as well as illnesses…