Climate Change and Racism Are Connected

Climate Justice:  Racism and Climate Change are Connected


  • We are in this together – people of color, indigenous people, and white people – in the US and around the world
  • We must become knowledgeable about the devastating effects that climate change is already having on people in front-line communities of color and indigenous communities in the US and around the world
  • Learning to keep our hearts open to what is happening to people of all races throughout the world as a result of climate change is part of the work
  • We commit ourselves to developing and taking immediate steps as large and radical as necessary to end the damage from climate change, racism, and genocide
  • We want our actions against climate change to always include redressing the disproportionate burden being borne by people of color and indigenous people and to move us toward having a more unified, multi-racial movement for climate justice

To end climate change we must unite against racism
because racism is keeping the climate movement from being as united and large as it needs to be. Greed, narrow self-interest, disregard for others, domination, and exploitation are the driving forces behind both racism and the despoiling of the planet. A deep, widespread commitment to the common good is necessary to ending climate change and is possible only as we unite across racial divisions.

We people of color, indigenous people, and white people who care about racial justice need to take on ending climate change because climate change, if unchecked, will be the greatest cause of impoverishment, suffering, and death of people of color and indigenous people in the coming century.

Springfield Climate Justice Coalition
Here in Western Massachusetts, since 2014 the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition has brought together organizations across the City of Springfield to take on the issues of climate change and environmental justice at the local level, “out of a deep concern for the future of our environment and public health”. Recent major victories include winning agreement to repair over 500 gas leaks in the city and the commitment of the City of Springfield to implement a Climate Action and Resiliency Plan.

Hurricane Harvey
3834582_web1_AP17239709430038 (1)flooded much of Houston, but the flooding was worst in the east end of the city where one Hispanic neighborhood had 9 feet of water. The petrochemical plants, oil refineries and shipping lanes that run adjacent to neighborhoods of color on Houston’s east side spread toxic waste each time the city floods, adding to the woes of those communities. Furthermore, low income families of color have the fewest resources for recovering from such a disaster. Hurricanes may be colorblind, but the effects fall hardest on people of color.

Climate Debt
The developed nations have used up far more than their fair share of the atmosphere’s capacity to safely hold carbon emissions. Now developing nations must deal with the effects of climate change and pursue economic development without the benefit of fossil fuels, using more costly alternative energies and sustainable practices. Fairness requires that developed nations help pay for the increased costs to developing nations. The payment of this “climate debt” is necessary in order to reduce greenhouse gases in the planet’s atmosphere. Developed nations set a goal of paying $100 billion a year in climate debt by 2020, but the US is not funding this commitment. Racism in the U.S. is the biggest obstacle to our nation paying its fair share.

climate marchIn the U.S. and worldwide, people of color and indigenous people are already disproportionately affected by climate change (despite having done the least to cause it).
Droughts, floods, and changing temperatures are disrupting subsistence agriculture in many parts of the developing world, resulting in increasing hunger and starvation. West Nile virus, Dengue, Ebola, Zika are all spreading in Africa and/or Latin America (and to the US) as a result of changing temperatures and rainfall patterns. Rising sea levels are already making some islands and low-lying areas uninhabitable (including in Louisiana). An average of 26.4 million people per year are now displaced from their homes by catastrophic weather events, mostly in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Worldwide, the climate movement is being led by people of color and indigenous people, for example:

Wangari Maathai of Kenya won the Nobel Peace prize in 2004 for her Green Belt Movement which planted over 30 million trees across Africa and advanced sustainability and women’s rights.

In 2015 the worlds 48 Least Developed Nations pushed successfully for the Paris climate conference to agree to seek to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C .