What climate change reforms mean for marginalized communities

Angel Baikakedi, Columnist

In case you missed it, the world is undergoing one of the worst climate crises to date. Carbon emissions exponentially increase each year, and the overall atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by 12.5 percent since the beginning of the century. That is a drastic increase, given that it has only been 21 years. Additionally, the countries that contribute to the majority of the carbon emissions are highly industrialized countries such as the US, China and Japan. China is the largest carbon emitter at 10.06 billion metric tons in 2018. While this isn’t great news globally, it’s significantly worse for low-income countries and marginalized communities.

Environmental racism,” a concept that falls under environmental justice, refers to the injustices experienced by marginalized communities in the form of the uneven distribution of environmental resources, hazards and exclusion in environmental policy-making. Most low-income countries are victims of environmental racism. They tend to be more affected by natural disasters that destroy crops and livestock, thus contributing to economic disparities since they are highly dependent on agriculture and local food production. Not only that, but large corporations and more powerful countries use low-income countries as dumping grounds for the waste they produce.

This also means that they cannot adapt to the changes caused by global warming by finding other means to sustain their livelihood. Activists and policy-makers from low-income countries are excluded from participating in climate change summits, where essential policies are decided, on account of a lack of financial resources. The consequence is an uneven distribution of resources that exacerbates inequality. 

However, the problem of environmental racism is not only seen in low-income countries. In the US, we see that air pollution affects more people of color than any other population. Scientists found that Black and Hispanic people breathe in 56 percent and 63 percent more pollution than they make, respectively, while at the same time, White people breathe in only 17 percent more pollution than they make. All these can be contributing factors to how more people of color suffer from respiratory diseases.

Because of the reasons mentioned above, political leaders need to establish climate change reforms targeted at reducing carbon emissions globally and finding ways to go about our daily lives in a greener way. Fossil fuels are currently the most significant contributor to global warming. Finding alternatives to them, such as renewable energy sources, would be one of the first solutions. 

An active measure towards reducing climate change is a functional measure towards lowering poverty rates and displacement in low-income countries and lowering the respiratory effects on people of color here in the US. Not only that, but how well we work to combat climate change will determine how much longer we get to live on Earth, experience all our natural resources and nature in general. To ignore climate change and its consequences is to continue to ignore the voices of already marginalized communities.