THE BLACK AGENDA

Climate Change

Climate change is impacting the Black community

Particularly for ADOS, but no doubt for many Black Americans, the change in regional climate patterns exacerbates the precarities stemming from public policies historically aimed at protecting white property values at the expense of the Black community. Indeed, efforts to shore up those values necessarily entailed making Black communities a site of neglect and ruin. And now, having been intentionally placed in those inferior living environments, Black Americans are being made to suffer the attendant climate-related hazards in a pronounced way. 

Describing what researchers call the ‘heat island effect’—a phenomenon in which tree-scarce, asphalt, and concrete-rich areas more readily absorb the sun’s energy and consequently experience more significant temperature rise—the Washington Post reported that “Blacks saw the highest urban heat exposure increase at 3.12° Celsius.”¹ By comparison, Hispanics experience an increase of 2.70° Celsius, and the average heat island effect in majority-white neighborhoods (at +1.47° Celsius) registers at less than half that of majority-Black neighborhoods.² In terms of how this phenomenon translates to a racialized morbidity rate, Black Americans are 2.5 x’s more likely to die from heat-related causes than whites.³ 

This is but one ramification of many that directly reflect how the legacy of anti-Blackness in America has not only predisposed the Black population to become the principal victims of climate-related harms, but also how ADOS are the only group for whom this arrangement is tied to the historic betrayal of the federal government to pay reparations and protect the former slaves during Reconstruction. 

Now, as then, most ADOS reside south of the Mason-Dixon line, with the overwhelming majority located in states along the Atlantic or Gulf Coast.⁴ These Black coastal communities are being devastated through the erosion of land, flooding, and the ever-growing intensity of storms associated with global warming. Compounding the burden of increasingly inhospitable land is the inability of these communities to marshal the resources necessary to adapt and recover from havoc-wreaking, extreme weather events. And whereas the federal government is charged with functioning as a responsive and supportive entity in this regard, the failures of its principal agency to deliver adequate relief to Black communities impacted by catastrophic natural events is well-documented. 

Research from the University of Pittsburgh and Rice University reveals how—by providing white homeowners with significantly larger payouts relative to Black homeowners in the aftermath of natural hazards —the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is contributing to the growing wealth gap between white and Black America. The authors note that, in counties that have experienced over $100,000 in damages,5 white families saw an increase in their net worth after receiving FEMA aid. Black families, however, saw a decrease. The government, in other words, continues to be derelict in its constitutional responsibility to guarantee our rights. Worse still is how it all too often directly violates those rights and deepens the inequality that has plagued our group from the country’s inception.

Figure 1: Estimated Increases in the Black-White Wealth Gap between 1999-2013 attributable to Natural Hazards Damage5

Absent transformative, targeted policies at the federal level, Black America will be left to languish in the punishing swell of elements that are quite literally at its front door. This fact is not lost on insurance companies. Through a process termed ‘blue-lining,’ insurance companies are beginning to update their flood maps6 to reflect novel dangers present in certain regions prone to climate change impact. They are adjusting—that is, raising—insurance premiums accordingly. In some cases, insurance companies may refuse to underwrite certain areas altogether. 

What, then, are the consequences of these possible eventualities for a group whose historical legacy is one of intentional wealth deprivation? How—at a time when the government is allocating trillions of dollars to transition U.S. energy production toward more sustainable, climate-friendly ends—do we not factor in the ways in which the energy production of yesterday so relied on exploitative and abusive practices inflicted on our community? Whether through slave labor, by which the early fossil fuel industry subsisted on our exclusion,7 or through convict leasing where that same industry leveraged the government’s failure to protect our rights and freedoms, energy production is one of so many industries in America that is built upon and allowed to thrive on our ancestors’ oppression. And insofar as the government now seeks to make repairs to the climate that its past policies helped harm, then it most certainly cannot evade—at the same time—making the necessary repairs to the specific community that those past policies also ravished in the process. Legislation must be introduced expeditiously before the grim scenarios that are sure to play out for Black America in the next decades of ongoing climate change begin to do so. To that end, the ADOS Advocacy Foundation demands:

  • The Biden administration stipulate that federal funding for all clean or renewable energy jobs and programs is contingent upon a minimum 15% Black employment rate in that particular economic sector. Employers will use the ADOS Matrix in their hiring process. 

  • FEMA establish a special office that identifies and attends to the specific needs of Black Americans. 
    • This office will develop procedural changes that improve the agency’s response to natural hazards and disasters that have been shown to exacerbate the racial wealth gap. 
    • There will be state-level, citizen oversight bodies established to monitor FEMA. A process will be implemented by which these bodies can recommend termination of staff that overlook or actively support anti-Black practices. There will also be a process through which these bodies can make formal recommendations to Congress and the White House regarding funding changes and improvements to the services of the agency. 
    • These oversight bodies will also have the power to approve, deny or halt projects receiving federal funds that are found to have unintended adverse effects on Black communities (ex: a sea wall project that will lead to flooding of outlying Black communities that are downstream from the site).

  • A Federal Crosscut (laws or executive orders that must be adhered to in the administration of federal programs even if not in the actual statute authorizing the program, and by states or any projects receiving federal funding) must be issued addressing the specific needs of Black Americans in combating the climate crisis, including ADOS being recognized as a protected class that is given targeted review and consideration by all federal agencies and programs during the impact assessment. Within the first 3 months of the year, every federal agency will be directed to submit a formal report to the White House detailing how their programs will meet the specific needs of Black Americans. All agencies tasked through executive orders, legislation, or court order to ameliorate the climate crisis will review how their proffered solutions will benefit Black Americans. 

  • Money that is redirected from sustaining the fossil fuel industry—whether through the tax code, direct federal government spending, or from the financial and insurance sectors and regulators—will be allocated for building out Black opportunities throughout the clean energy economy (i.e. jobs in energy storage/efficiency/conservation, and discreet sectors that lower greenhouse gasses.) These initiatives will provide a living wage for workers, and they will aim to promote wealth building via business and land ownership. 

  • The federal government will reject false solutions to the climate crisis that enable industry to continue polluting Black communities. For example, fossil fuel companies using tree planting projects in Eastern Africa to bypass decreasing polluting in Black American communities. All federal dollars and permits—as well as funding and underwriting from banks and insurers related to energy production—should be disbursed and granted only if the initiatives can be demonstrated to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce toxins and climate vulnerabilities for Black Americans. 

  • The United States federal government will set an ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2030 in ways that prioritize Black Americans’ access to jobs and ownership.

  • There will be a moratorium on the issuance of permits as well as approval of exports for/from all wood pellet facilities in the U.S. These facilities are primarily placed in Southern Black communities and are major emitters of greenhouse gas and toxins.

References

  1. Root, Tik. “Heat and Smog Hit Low-Income Communities and People of Color Hardest, Scientists Say.” The Washington Post. WP Company, May 25, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/05/25/heat-inequality-climate-change/

  2. Hsu, Angel, Glenn Sheriff, Tirthankar Chakraborty, and Diego Manya. “Disproportionate Exposure to Urban Heat Island Intensity across Major US Cities.” Nature News. Nature Publishing Group, May 25, 2021. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-22799-5

  3. Reinberg, Steven. “Extreme Weather Kills 2,000 in U.S. Each Year: CDC.” MedicineNet. MedicineNet, July 31, 2014. https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=179772

  4. Bureau, US Census. “Race and Ethnicity in the United States: 2010 Census and 2020 Census.” Census.gov, October 19, 2021. https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/race-and-ethnicity-in-the-united-state-2010-and-2020-census.html

  5. Junia Howell, James R Elliott, Damages Done: The Longitudinal Impacts of Natural Hazards on Wealth Inequality in the United States, Social Problems, Volume 66, Issue 3, August 2019, Pages 448–467, https://doi.org/10.1093/socpro/spy016

  6. Abraham Lustgarten, “How the Climate Crisis Will Shape Migration in America,” The New York Times, Sept. 15, 2021.

  7. Lewis, Ronald L. “Black Coal Miners in America: Race, Class, and Community Conflict, 1780-1980.” Labor History.2. 

Learn more about the Black Agenda

Agriculture

Despite being the agricultural experts at the end of Slavery, Black farmers have been historically excluded from agricultural programs.

Black Business

Black America requires investment in business, economic uplift, and employment. Learn more.

Cannabis

For decades, Cannabis was used to incarcerate a disproportionate number of Black Americans.
Repair starts here.

Criminal Justice

Black America has faced unequal outcomes from the justice system for centuries. We want to change current outcomes to more equitable ones.

Education

Educational inequalities for Black America must be addressed systematically.

Environmental Racism

Polluted environments harm our communities in America. Learn about our solutions to address this issue.

Health & Nutrition

Health is a part of wealth. Our communities have been deprived of access to adequate healthcare for centuries. This inequality must be addressed.

Housing

Redlining and subprime lending practices exacerbated the lineage wealth gap. This inequality must be addressed.

Immigration

Widespread Immigration has been used to suppress Black mobility for decades. We want to provide a more ethical pathway to citizenship.

Infrastructure

The government provides grants for road and public transit projects, utilities, and a host of other capital expenditures. Black America must have access.

Unemployment & Labor

Throughout the years, many employment programs excluded Black Americans in parity, but allowed their abuse for profit. Learn how to repair.

Without these measures being instituted, ADOS are locked out of the country our ancestors built during chattel slavery. Without reforms through transformative government, we will be left to continue living a third world life in a first world country.

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