Recent wildfires in Arizona and other western states serve as a reminder that black communities are on the front lines of the climate crisis.
A University of Washington and Nature Conservancy wildfire study found that Black, Hispanic and Indigenous communities are 50% more vulnerable to wildfires than other communities. This increased vulnerability to climate impacts is not limited to forest fires: communities of color bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to other climate impacts such as severe weather, air pollution and climate change. sea level rise.
In Phoenix, the threat of climate change is greatest in black, Latino, and low-income communities compared to the richer green parts of the city.
While the weather impacts of climate change can be well publicized, the disproportionate impacts on communities of color, the same communities that I serve as a pastor, are not as well known. The health disparities that exist in the black community are both real and deadly. As a community, our children suffer from asthma, a direct result of poor air quality and climate change, at rates higher than many other ethnic groups. Studies suggest that black Americans in most cities are twice as likely to experience heat stress. Housing segregation has trapped black families in neighborhoods with little shade by trees and limited vegetation to counter heat waves.
Study after study, our own lived experience is that black and low-income communities are the first and hardest hit by climate impacts, with little or no resources to adapt and recover. Even in the face of individual and community action, our leaders in Congress must face this moment by enacting meaningful climate legislation and investing in a clean energy future. The Build Back Better Act, which is currently under consideration in Congress, contains essential climate policies that can help us move towards a cleaner environment and support our nation’s clean energy. This pivot towards clean and renewable energy is vital for the survival of our families and our children.
Arizona black religious leaders and religious leaders have urged Congress to act on the climate, as our voices become increasingly urgent and alarmed. National policymakers, including Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, must develop or support policies that address climate change and strengthen black communities. The Build Back Better Act must have justice as a cornerstone and compensate for the disproportionate impact of climate change on Black, Latino, Indigenous and other communities of color.
Just as important as whether we invest is how we invest in climate solutions. We not only need to help communities be more climate resilient, but we also need to end the cause of suffering first.
The issue of climate change cannot be separated from our destiny as people of color. We know that if we continue our business as usual, lives – black lives – will be lost.