Environmental justice works to reduce the inequalities faced by vulnerable communities due to pollution, environmental problems, and climate change consequences. By that definition, climate change can be an environmental justice issue, as many minority and low-income neighborhoods are more vulnerable to climate change’s risks.
For that reason, our environmental justice lawyers take legal action to address climate justice issues.
The Relationship Between Climate Change and Inequality
Climate refers to patterns and long-term averages of temperature, rainfall, and humidity, and it’s not the same as the daily weather we experience.
While natural processes and changes also tend to influence the climate, since the early 20th century, any major changes in climate are mainly due to human activity and our reliance on fossil fuels, according to NASA. The burning of fossil fuels is one of the main causes of the heating up of our atmosphere in recent years, the global warming we are experiencing.
You may not necessarily be aware that climate change is an environmental justice issue. However, those most at risk from the adverse effects of climate change and extreme weather events live in Black or other minority neighborhoods. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, for example, has been dubbed “a time of environmental racism” by the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). Climate justice is therefore a component of racial justice.
Climate Change and Environmental Racism
According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), climate change has a disproportionate impact on communities of color, as well as low-income communities in the United States. Climate change can increase the severity of storms and contribute to other natural disasters that may have a much more pronounced effect on minority communities than on white and affluent neighborhoods.
Addressing climate change means also addressing the fact that some communities are more vulnerable to environmental hazards than others. Generally, every single one of us is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as it affects our living situation and access to clean air, clean water, shelter, and food. However, poorer communities and those of color are disproportionately negatively affected in many additional ways.
Vulnerable Communities Are Affected by Environmental and Climate Injustice
Certain communities are already at a disadvantage due to having to deal with environmental dangers, as well as other detrimental issues. For example, Black and low-income communities are more likely to exist close to toxic waste facilities or industrial operations that create hazardous environmental conditions.
This may leave them less able to prepare for challenges from climate change. It may also cause them to suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change. For example, toxic leaks may occur at industrial facilities due to events caused by global warming, such as strong storms or flooding. Some minority communities are also in places where natural disasters will strike more often, such as along the coast or in low-lying inner cities.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some of the environmental disadvantages and injustices that low-income, colored, and immigrant communities face include:
- Having to deal with higher health risks
- Having limited or no access to health care
- Not being able to rebuild their homes or move after a disaster
- Lacking information and access in their native languages
Environmental Justice vs. Climate Justice
Environmental justice focuses on communities dealing with exposure to pollutants, contamination, and toxins. The NAACP highlights areas like Detroit and Kansas City as places experiencing environmental injustice. Specific cases, like the Camp Lejeune water contamination case, also fall under this category.
Climate justice focuses specifically on enacting change to combat the consequences of climate change on low-income or minority communities.
Due to how vulnerable communities are affected by both climate and environmental injustice, the two issues often go hand-in-hand. Both pursuits share similar goals: sustainability, racial justice, and equality.
The U.S. Stance on Climate Change
Battling climate change also helps to battle social injustice. Many communities throughout the country are already suffering from the devastating effects of climate change, such as increased wildfires, droughts, heatwaves, and rising sea levels.
However, as of 2020, the government focus has somewhat moved away from trying to take concrete action that could alleviate climate change, as witnessed by the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Fighting climate change in the U.S. now relies more heavily on regional and local efforts.
Florida is one of the states most affected by climate change, as 20 of the nation’s 25 most vulnerable cities are in the state, according to Climate Nexus. Not only is most of the infrastructure in the state low-lying, but Florida is also no stranger to frequent battering from adverse weather events, such as hurricanes. These events are certain to become more frequent and more damaging due to climate change and higher sea temperatures.
While the federal government is pulling back on climate action, 12 cities in Florida signed the “We Are Still In” declaration, committing to the goals of the Paris Agreement.
A timely transition to predominantly green energy could offset some of the effects of climate change and help to protect all our communities, including those most vulnerable and those who are already at a distinct disadvantage due to environmental injustice and racism.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC Can Work on Your Climate Justice Case
If you feel that you personally or your community suffer harm or injury due to the adverse effects of environmental injustice, you should consider speaking to us.
We believe that the environmental disadvantages and resulting health hazards suffered by Black and low-wage communities are unfair. We need to address environmental and climate injustice with urgency. Climate change is an environmental justice issue.
Rapid climate change and global warming will only serve to aggravate an already untenable situation and make life for minority communities harder than ever before.
We could potentially help you fight for justice and compensation. Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC today and tell us your concerns.