Environmental injustice in Black communities

ANGELLA KIDD | 3/14/2019, 9:39 a.m.
The White House has recently announced a plan to form a committee to analyze the challenges climate change will cause ...
Environmental awareness Pixabay

The White House has recently announced a plan to form a committee to analyze the challenges climate change will cause to national security. President Donald Trump has appointed senior aide William Happer to coordinate this project. Happer is a climate change skeptic who believes higher levels of carbon dioxide are beneficial to the environment. However, this is a claim that many climate scientists have proven incorrect. Happer’s false beliefs about climate change pose a risk to Americans, specifically marginalized groups such as Black Americans.

The Trump administration has previously dismissed reports from federal agencies about the public health risks stemming from climate change and pollution. However, these environmental health risks pose a significant challenge to Black communities. The carbon dioxide that Happer claims is beneficial is actually causing extreme heatwaves and an overall temperamental climate. It is this temperamental climate brought by climate change that causes Black Americans in places like Los Angeles to be twice as likely to die from heat waves as compared to other LA residents. This is significant because many Black communities are disproportionately impacted by poverty and inequality. Poverty and inequality cause Black communities to be more vulnerable to warmer temperatures that demand access to air conditioning, shade and trees. However, many poor Black communities do not have access to these amenities.

The pollutants that are causing climate change are also disproportionately impacting Black Americans. A study conducted by the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment showed that people of color were more likely to live near pollution sites and breathe toxic air. Over half of Americans who live near hazardous waste sites are people of color, Black children in the U.S. are twice as likely to suffer from asthma compared to white children, and close to 80 percent of Black Americans live within 30 miles of a coal plant. This might help explain why Black Americans are three times more likely to die from airborne pollution compared to the rest of the U.S. population.

These statistics demonstrate the public health risks brought on by climate change. Many Black communities continue to lack the political and economic resources to face climate change. Because of this, Black Americans are more likely to die from environmental causes than white Americans. The appointment of Happer demonstrates how the Trump administration continues to ignore the issues surrounding the environment and Black community. It should be a goal of the government to ensure environmental justice. However, the appointment of Happer does not provide environmental justice and further illustrates that the Trump administration is choosing to ignore the needs of the Black community.