Markell was just three years old in 2008 when lightning struck equipment at an underground natural gas pipeline a mile from his home in the primarily Black and under-resourced community of Eight Mile, Alabama. Five hundred gallons of mercaptan, a chemical odorant, spilled into the soil and groundwater, migrated to ponds, and surfaced to pollute the air. The stench of rotten eggs lingered in the community for more than eight years.
By age five, Markell was having seizures seemingly triggered by the chemical odor; they became so severe over the years that he was repeatedly hospitalized and missed months of school. Mercaptan, federally reclassified as a hazardous chemical in 2016, is reported to affect the central nervous system and respiratory function. By 2020, more than 12 years after the spill, thousands of Eight Mile residents had reported headaches, nosebleeds, rashes, nausea, vomiting, seizures, vision problems, and hypertension—along with asthma and respiratory distress, risk factors that made them more susceptible to COVID-19. Many of their homes became uninhabitable or impossible to sell because of the environmental hazard. They still have not received justice.1
Now, on top of these direct impacts of growing up near the infrastructure of the fossil fuel industry, Markell faces another risk: climate change.
More than 14,000 scientists from 158 countries agree that our world is in a climate emergency.2 Coal, oil, and gas production in industrialized nations releases billions of tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere each year, with the United States responsible for the most cumulative emissions over time (and for being the second-worst offender, behind China, today).3 Due to the machinations of monied interests determined to maintain the status quo of a fossil fuel–dependent economy, human activity is producing record-high greenhouse gas emissions. The last seven years (2015 through 2021) have been the hottest on record.4 There is reason to hope: the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed into law in August 2022, takes on climate change while lowering energy costs, but much more needs to be done.
The scientific consensus is that an increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius over the preindustrial global temperature will likely have catastrophic and escalating effects, dramatically increasing the likelihood of extreme heat waves, storms, droughts, and water stress.5 However, in 2019 the UN Environment Programme warned that if we don’t act quickly and make significant cuts to global emissions, we could see a temperature rise of more than 3 degrees Celsius by 2100, damaging our ecosystems in ways that cannot be reversed.6
We are already seeing the impacts of global warming on sea levels. Rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets is causing rising sea levels that could affect nearly two-thirds of the world’s large cities (cities of more than 5 million people) and the nearly 40 percent of people who live within 60 miles of a coast.7 This isn’t some distant possibility our grandchildren might face—it’s happening now. Eight islands have been submerged in the western Pacific, with many more shrinking and vulnerable;8 entire sections of Charleston, South Carolina; Miami, Florida; Norfolk, Virginia; Galveston, Texas; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and many other cities could be underwater in our lifetimes.9
Global warming affects more than just where we live—it also affects how we live, including what we eat. Erosion, soil degradation, extreme heat, rising seawater temperatures, and shifts in weather patterns limit food production and increase spoilage (which limits food availability).10 Desertification—the degradation of fertile land to a degree that it is permanently unable to support its former plant growth—affects 500 million people today.11 Climate change also decreases both the amount and the quality of water available for drinking and agriculture.12
We can also connect the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters resulting from weather extremes to climate change. Over the last 20 years, more than 90 percent of disasters worldwide have been caused by weather-related events—typhoons, hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, and more.13 According to World Bank estimates, each year these disasters cost the global economy $520 billion and impoverish 26 million people.14
Inequitable Health Impacts
A byproduct of our climate emergency, brought about by the proliferation of fossil fuels in our economy, is significant health impacts on all of us. Extreme heat adversely affects cardiovascular, kidney, and respiratory disorders and causes increased hospital admissions for heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke and dehydration.15 Sea level rise and flooding cause drowning, injury, property damage or loss, and short- and long-term displacement; along with food insecurity and disasters, they are drivers of climate-forced migration.
The public health impacts of climate-forced migration are many. Women have experienced violence in insecure border crises or through coerced transactional sex.16 People have taken risks swimming across waterways or hiding in trucks. The way climate refugees are treated in the countries through which they travel or in their destination countries also often puts them at risk.17 And all these threats can adversely affect mental health.18
These health hazards are grave, but not all people or communities are equally at risk. In the United States and across the world, inequities in wealth and income impact where people live and thus impact the extent to which they are exposed to these hazards and how well they recover from disasters.* Climate change has a particularly devastating impact on health and well-being for vulnerable populations, including those with low wealth—which describes many communities where Black and Indigenous people and other people of color live. Here are just a few examples:
- Extreme Heat. With persistent vestiges of redlining (which prevented Black people and other marginalized peoples from buying homes in white neighborhoods†) and underinvestment in green infrastructure, people of color and communities with low wealth are at differential risk for impacts from extreme heat, including urban heat islands. The 1995 Chicago heat wave, in which most of the 739 fatalities were people with low incomes and those who were elderly and Black, was a harbinger of things to come.19 In the areas that are hardest hit, it is only recently that infrastructure improvements have been made to mitigate extreme heat.20 Recent studies show that the increase in heat is directly tied to maternal health outcomes, increasing hospitalizations during the second and third trimesters—especially for Black women.21
- Disasters. Disasters don’t discriminate, but underlying socioeconomic and political disparities result in greater risk for certain communities and populations. For example, the victims of Hurricane Katrina were disproportionately likely to be low wealth, renters, elderly, and/or Black.22 And during disasters, not only is there a spike in violence against women,23 but marginalized populations—including differently abled people, female-headed households, and communities of color—are also more likely to face long-term displacement.24
- Sea Level Rise and Flooding. Communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to have homes that are coastal or located in floodplains—but less likely to have flood insurance.25 When flooding happens, these communities are at higher risk for injury or death, property loss, and displacement.26
- Food Insecurity. Redlining and persistent underinvestment in communities of color and low-income/low-wealth communities have already been linked to food insecurity. With the shifts in agricultural yields resulting from climate change, food insecurity is increasing. This has been cited as a major driver of climate-forced migration.27
- Mental Health. Any of the above circumstances is enough to challenge mental health, but some communities with layers of vulnerability also experience multiple impacts of climate change. With loss of loved ones and property, as well as repeated trauma, these communities suffer even greater mental health impacts.28
Communities with low wealth and communities of color also face greater health, social, economic, and political impacts because they are more likely to have widespread exposure to environmental toxins caused by an unfettered fossil fuel–based energy economy. These communities are more likely to live in fence-line zones (areas closest to highly hazardous commercial and industrial facilities) and areas near roadway air pollution29 (from under-regulated vehicle emissions30), and they are more likely to experience displacement due to under-regulated fossil fuel infrastructure.31
Oil drilling sites are twice as likely to be in communities of color than in white communities, disproportionately exposing these communities to toxic air and water.32 The majority of the worst coal-fired power plants—the top emitters of carbon dioxide—disproportionately pollute communities of color with toxins including mercury, arsenic, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide. And race is the largest indicator of whether one lives next to landfills and toxic waste facilities,33 including incinerators that emit cadmium34 and benzene, which are known carcinogens, and methane, a key driver of our climate crisis.
Thus, it’s no surprise that in the United States, people of color are exposed to 38 percent more polluted air than white people35 or that Black and Latinx Americans have a higher cancer risk from toxic air emissions from refineries than the average American.36 And while, nationally, ozone smog from pollution is associated with 750,000 summertime asthma attacks in children and 500,000 missed school days,37 the greater burden is borne by Black communities. Approximately 13.4 percent of Black children have asthma (over 1.3 million children), compared to 7.3 percent of white children. Even more sobering, the asthma-related mortality rate for Black children is estimated at 3 to 7 times that of white children.38
While healthcare professionals can treat the symptoms of our climate emergency, long-term change is not possible without addressing the local and national political and economic systems that have allowed the fossil fuel industry to exploit our communities and perpetuate the environmental injustices that threaten us all. That means healthcare professionals—and all of us—need to stand up for laws and policies that protect people’s and our planet’s health.
How the Fossil Fuel Industry Threatens Our Democracy
Over the last several years, an increasing number of voices have sounded the alarm—with rising urgency due to Donald Trump’s ongoing false claims of rigged elections—that democracy in the United States is on shaky ground. Former President Bill Clinton echoed the concerns of many when, in a 2021 interview, he opined that there was a “fair chance” that the country could “completely lose our constitutional democracy.”39
Examining how we arrived at our climate emergency shows that we have never achieved the fully inclusive constitutional democracy to which we aspire. From before our nation’s founding to today, the people’s voices have rarely been heard above the cacophony of corporate interests.
The founding of the United States of America was rooted in an extractive economy—one based on extracting and exploiting resources from land and people—from the moment that European explorers set out across the Atlantic Ocean. They sailed in search of alternate routes to India and to East and Southeast Asia, but those ships encountered something unexpected instead: the continents now referred to as the Americas, vast, bountiful—and already occupied.
Rather than live in harmony with the original Indigenous inhabitants of the 2.43 billion acres that today comprise the United States, far too many of these settlers murdered, displaced, and enslaved them. After centuries of genocide, the surviving Indigenous people were relegated to reservations to keep them off the lands that Europeans settled. Their treaty rights were violated, and they were denied many basic human rights.‡
And rather than work the stolen land themselves, far too many white landowners objectified, extracted, enslaved, and brutalized hundreds of thousands of Africans—and millions of their African American descendants—to build the infrastructure of this nation. After the Civil War, Jim Crow laws (the strict local and state laws also known as Black Codes) appeared throughout the South to legally put many Black citizens into indentured servitude, severely limit their voting rights, control where they lived and how they traveled, and seize their children for labor. Former Confederate soldiers (and their descendants) served as police and judges to uphold these unjust laws, and Black people had very little recourse, in the courts or otherwise, to right these wrongs.40
The goal of the United States’ extractive economy is the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few—from the royal rulers of Europe to the plantation owners of the American South—through marginalization and forceful subjugation. While the outward circumstances have changed, we can see this same philosophy at work in our present-day economic and political systems. Workers work, but the profits of their labor are by and large funneled up to the top of the corporate food chain. In the process, far too few corporations are concerned about their climate or human impacts and far too many of our elected leaders put corporate interests above the people’s and our planet’s interests.
With the Voting Rights Act of 1965, our democracy opened to Black and Indigenous Americans. But today, laws and practices around redistricting, voter identification, early voting, mail-in and absentee ballots, and polling place hours are weakening the political power of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.§ Lack of representation in elected and appointed offices, the persistent lack of policies and regulations to restrain discrimination, and the dearth of policies to uphold civil and human rights are the collective results. It has taken decades for Congress to become as diverse as it is today—and even so, the overwhelming majority of Congress is still white.41 This means the vast majority of policies in place today that affect people and the environment have been made by a nonrepresentative government.
Corporations’ Unfathomable Political Power
It is difficult to put trust in noninclusive systems that fail those most affected by damaging environmental policies. Governments at federal, state, and local levels have not only persistently failed to protect communities from attacks on public health but have furthered corporate interests while failing to establish a safety net in the form of a universally accessible, quality healthcare system. Meanwhile, corporations continue to gain power, to the detriment of people and planet. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision paved the way for corporations—now considered people with the right to free speech—to pour unlimited funds into the campaigns of politicians who would act in their interests through super PACs—political action committees whose spending on political activity is relatively unrestricted. Over the decade that followed, more than $3 billion was donated to super PACs to influence elections42—and nearly half of that was given by just 25 individuals.43 In a nation with a population of over 300 million people, this is the antithesis of democracy.44
In the environmental arena, the examples of outsized corporate influence over politicians and policies proliferate. In 2012, the oil and gas industry spent more than $153 million—more than four times the spending on promoting clean energy—on ads promoting coal, oil, and gas. In the 2014 federal and gubernatorial races, outside groups spent more than $1 billion on ads. Of that amount, close to 40 percent was spent by so-called dark money groups, which are not hindered by a duty to disclose their funding sources.45 As a 2016 report from Clean Water Action describes,
Campaign finance laws allow the oil and gas industry to help elect candidates who support efforts to undermine environmental protections, drive pro-industry legislation, and secure taxpayer subsidies to the industry. Recent studies show that every $1 the industry spends on campaign contributions and lobbying efforts returns $100 back in subsidies—a 10,000 percent return on investment.46
Corporations’ purchase of political influence allows them to persistently and systematically hinder people from political participation. Fossil fuel companies, including Peabody Energy, Duke Energy, and Koch Industries, have historically paid substantial membership dues to groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that specialize in drafting “prepackaged” state legislation to manipulate and/or suppress voting rights.47 In addition to voter suppression laws, ALEC’s suite of unjust policies includes draft legislation countering clean energy and energy efficiency. Recent model bills from ALEC identify fossil fuel facilities as “critical infrastructure.”48 This status restricts public protests, sometimes with severe penalties, which further silences critical voices.
Often, even when people can engage with policy or accountability mechanisms, their input is trumped by the power of monied industries that sway regulations in their favor. Between October 1, 2001, and June 1, 2011, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA, which reviews significant regulations proposed or changed by executive branch agencies) met with five times as many industry representatives as with people representing public interest groups. And research has found a strong correlation between interest groups lobbying OIRA and changes in the final rules favoring those groups.49 Similarly, in 2020, the US House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties investigated allegations that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which oversees interstate energy projects, was favoring natural gas companies in decisions about pipeline expansion projects and violating landowners’ property rights. The subcommittee found that over the previous 20 years, FERC acted as a “rubber stamp” for the energy industry, approving over 99 percent of requests to build on privately owned land while stalling and/or denying every landowner who appealed the decision.50
Industry groups also purchase insider help to crowd out environmental advocates and the general public when proposed regulations are opened for public comment. A review of US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records from 1994 to 2009 found that industry groups held a virtual monopoly over informal communications that occurred before proposed rules on hazardous air pollutants were publicly available. On average, industry groups engaged in 170 times more informal communications with the EPA than public interest players before any proposed rules were even written. During the notice-and-comment period once the rules were published, comments from the public and public interest groups (4 percent of comments) were buried in an avalanche of comments from well-funded, heavily credentialed industry insiders and their highly paid allies (81 percent of comments).
Far worse, some industry groups have simply bribed political figures to influence the legislative process. For example, in July 2019, the state of Ohio passed HB 6, a law that reversed its renewable energy initiatives and offered subsidies to increase production at nuclear and coal power plants. The law imposed additional charges on energy bills for Ohio residents that would have ultimately ensured a $1.3 billion bailout for two struggling nuclear power plants.51 Ohio Republican House Speaker Larry Householder advocated for HB 6. One year later, in July 2020, Householder was arrested in connection with a $60 million bribery scheme in which FirstEnergy Corporation, a top nuclear power company in Ohio, allegedly paid Householder, top aides, and lobbyists to pass HB 6 and destroy ballot initiatives that would have prevented it from being enacted.52
The Cost of Corporate Impunity
The fossil fuel industry continues to go unregulated or under-regulated even in the face of clear evidence of public harm. We have to look no further for evidence than the June 2022 Supreme Court ruling on West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency,53 which restricts the EPA’s authority to limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal- and natural gas–fired power plants. This ruling continued the weakening of the EPA seen under the Trump administration, which loosened environmental regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the documented correlation between air pollution and COVID-19 infections and mortality rates,54 the administration acted in the interest of corporations, using the need to stimulate the economy as a rationale.55
The primary beneficiary of economic stimulation because of persistent environmental under-regulation is the energy industry; it reaps billions in profits and maintains the status quo through the well-financed efforts to undermine our democracy. As the NAACP detailed in both volumes of the Fossil Fueled Foolery reports, these efforts often utilize deceptive tactics such as exaggerating corporations’ economic impact on communities, employing “credentialed experts” to deny responsibility for or discredit evidence of the harm they cause, shifting blame to the communities they pollute—and even distorting what’s considered toxic.56 Through heavy investments in lobbying, corporations restrict implementation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the corresponding Toxic Release Inventory, making it challenging to even label known dangerous substances as hazardous.57 As a result, there are literally hundreds of unregulated harmful chemicals circulating in the built environment and in the air, water, and soil.**
Toward Solutions: A Living Economy Anchored by Deep Democracy
The earth and its people—especially those most vulnerable—have paid a terrible price for a regulatory system controlled by polluters without meaningful protections for public health. But there is hope. We can achieve long-term climate solutions that benefit everyone as we transition from an exploitative economy dominated by the powerful few to a living economy that honors the earth and affirms the rights and well-being of all. In this new, living economy, our society mirrors our ecosystems, which are characterized by cooperation and deep democracy. Only in this way can we see environmental justice and heal the systemic inequities that plague our planet.
Creating a living, regenerative economy requires reclaiming the regulatory system and ending corporate overreach. It means putting infrastructure in place to ensure that government entities are truly serving their constituents. Some of this work is already in progress. Policies are being introduced to reverse Citizens United and reduce the influence of money in politics through campaign finance reform.58 And some government agencies are working to establish greater representation and regulatory transparency. The US General Services Administration is engaging in a listening relationship with the NAACP’s Centering Equity in the Sustainable Building Sector Initiative. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has established memorandums of agreement with the NAACP and the Institute of the Black World, among others, to declare and uphold lines of accountability. And a notable example is FERC, which is positioned to turn a corner under the leadership of Montina Cole, the agency’s first-ever senior counsel for environmental justice and equity. In 2021, FERC set up an Office of Public Participation to ensure more responsiveness and accountability to the public. The agency is investing time and money in rethinking energy projects and its approach to community engagement—under the leadership of a Black woman.59 While it’s still too early to tell how successful this effort will be, it’s a promising start.
Still, much more should be done. I offer the following recommendations for how our governments at all levels can correct the egregiously unjust overreach by industry actors and safeguard the lives and well-being of people and our planet:
- Our government must live up to the tenets of democracy: of the people, by the people, and for the people. Seeking input from beleaguered communities only to ignore that input is a waste of everyone’s time; instead, agencies must actively engage communities and prioritize their needs and concerns in decision-making to ensure that the people’s voices are heard.
- Organizations with relationships with frontline communities must be empowered in partnership with regulatory bodies and technical support groups like the Regulatory Assistance Project60 (a global, sustainability-focused nonprofit that provides technical and policy assistance to lawmakers). Such groups have established community trust and understanding and must be centered in decision-making.
- Government entities must create greater transparency about proposed environmental regulations to encourage true community participation. Draft rules and related information must be more accessible and user friendly—employing clear, easy-to-follow language with limited jargon and presented in multiple languages.
- There should be parallels to the FERC’s Office of Public Participation (OPP) throughout our regulatory system. The capacity of these OPP mechanisms must be significant, with abundant resources and robust staff, including technical assistance providers, community organizers, communicators, and educators, to foster meaningful engagement and informed decision-making.
- There must be rules governing monied interests’ access to those who develop policies and regulations and make decisions affecting these interests. This includes far stricter rules about industry officers and executives entering elected office and colluding with industry, along with campaign finance reform to further institutional policies delinking money and power. Monitoring and enforcing these rules should be robust to serve as a meaningful deterrent.
- A final recommendation involves government at all levels increasing community engagement and all of us working to build community power, particularly in the communities closest to environmental and regulatory harm, which have the least resources to enact change for their health and well-being.
Communities across the nation are recognizing that through a living economy and inclusive democracy, we can work to change policies that hurt us and chart a new course for our future. And as they build power through grassroots leadership and civic action, they are demonstrating what it means to come together in unity, joint purpose, and democracy. In places like Anchorage, Alaska,61 and Berkeley62 and Oakland,63 California, it has meant establishing community processes and agencies to create climate action plans. In Portland, Oregon, it has meant enacting the Portland Clean Energy Fund through a citizen ballot measure.64 In other communities it has meant investing in nutritious, life-giving food (Washington, DC),65 water systems that serve everyone (Detroit, Michigan),66 clean and renewable energy projects (Highland Park, Michigan),67 and energy, environmental, and economic justice projects (Spartanburg, South Carolina;68 the Pilsen community of Chicago;69 Buffalo, New York;70 Jackson, Mississippi;71 Indianapolis, Indiana;72 and Gainesville, Florida73).
None of these things happen on their own. We need to push our governments and our elected leaders for greater transparency, accountability, and community involvement—and if they won’t do it, we need to work to elect leaders who will. And we must ensure that frontline communities have clear pathways for input, influence, and decision-making. They are closest to our climate emergency, and they must be trusted to help develop workable solutions.
When people have the power, our local economies are stronger. Our communities can grow our own food, generate our own clean energy, ensure equitable access to water for all, and engage in local manufacturing of the products we need. We can design systems that are regenerative, with sustainable practices rooted in and time-tested by nature. When the people govern, we can shift from labels like “marginalized” because decisions are made by “the bigger we” for “the bigger we.”
Only when we work together in solidarity can we begin to deliver equal protection under the law and ensure that our laws center human rights, health, and well-being instead of obscene profits and power held by the few. Only together can we begin to dream of a true promised land that lives up to the tenet of “liberty and justice for all.”
Jacqueline Patterson is the founder and executive director of the Chisholm Legacy Project: A Resource Hub for Black Frontline Climate Justice Leadership and former senior director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.
*For an in-depth look at disparate impacts in west Atlanta—and how communities are fighting back—see “Environmental Justice” in the Spring 2022 issue of AFT Health Care. (return to article)
†For more on redlining, see “Suppressed History” in the Spring 2021 issue of the AFT’s American Educator. (return to article)
‡To learn more about the history of Native American ecological systems and the impact of forced relocation, see “Traditional Food Knowledge Among Native Americans” in the Fall 2020 issue of AFT Health Care. (return to article)
§For more on how voter suppression and other attempts to manipulate election outcomes threaten our democracy, read “Pay Attention: Democracy Is on the Ballot.” (return to article)
**For more on these toxicants, see “Healing a Poisoned World” in the Fall 2020 issue of AFT Health Care. (return to article)
1. I. Penn, “‘We Cannot Breathe’: A Poor Alabama Town Has Lived with the Rotten Egg Stench of Gas for 8 Years,” Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2016; and R. Ramirez and B. Blower, “With COVID-19 Taking a New Toll, a Poor Black Community in Alabama Awaits Justice for a 2008 Industrial Disaster,” National Community Reinvestment Coalition, October 21, 2020.
2. Alliance of World Scientists, “We Invite All Scientists to Sign a Short Article on Climate Change,” Oregon State University; and W. Ripple et al., “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency 2021,” BioScience 71, no. 9 (September 2021): 894–98.
3. S. Evans, “Analysis: Which Countries Are Historically Responsible for Climate Change?,” CarbonBrief, October 5, 2021.
4. S. Kaplan and J. Muyskens, “The Past Seven Years Have Been the Hottest in Recorded History, New Data Shows,” Washington Post, January 13, 2022.
5. L. Fendt, “Why Did the IPCC Chose 2°C as the Goal for Limiting Global Warming?,” Ask MIT Climate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, June 22, 2021.
6. United Nations, “UN Emissions Report: World on Course for More Than 3 Degree Spike, Even If Climate Commitments Are Met,” UN News, November 26, 2019; and United Nations, “The Climate Crisis–A Race We Can Win.”
7. United Nations, “The Climate Crisis.”
8. J. Podesta, “The Climate Crisis, Migration, and Refugees,” Brookings, July 25, 2019; see also E. Roy, “‘One Day We’ll Disappear’: Tuvalu’s Sinking Islands,” The Guardian, May 16, 2019.
9. J. Jones, “These U.S. Cities Are the Most Threatened by Sea Level Rise,” Construction Coverage, June 22, 2022, constructioncoverage.com/research/cities-most-impacted-by-sea-level-rise; and Mapping Choices: Carbon, Climate, and Rising Seas: Our Global Legacy (Princeton, NJ: Climate Central, November 2015).
10. A. Gomez-Zavaglia, J. Mejuto, and J. Simal-Gandara, “Mitigation of Emerging Implications of Climate Change on Food Production Systems,” Food Research International 134 (August 2020): 109256.
11. Earth Observatory, “Temporary Drought or Permanent Desert?,” NASA, January 3, 2007; and “Summary for Policy Makers” in P. Shukla et al. ed., Climate Change and Land (Geneva, Switzerland: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2019).
12. United Nations, “World Food Security Increasingly at Risk Due to ‘Unprecedented’ Climate Change Impact, New UN Report Warns,” UN News, August 8, 2019; and UN Water, Climate Change Adaptation: The Pivotal Role of Water (Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations, May 6, 2010).
13. The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters: 1995–2015 (Brussels, Belgium, and Geneva, Switzerland: Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters and UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2015).
14. S. Hallegatte et al., Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters (Washington, DC: World Bank Group, 2017).
15. K. Ebi et al., “Hot Weather and Heat Extremes: Health Risks,” The Lancet 398, no. 10301 (August 21, 2021): P698–708.
16. J. Phillimore et al., “‘We Are Forgotten’: Forced Migration, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, and Coronavirus Disease-2019,” Violence Against Women 28, no. 9 (2022): 2204–30.
17. For example, see E. Gold, “The Climate Crisis at Our Border,” Brennan Center for Justice, October 27, 2021.
18. P. Cianconi, S. Betrò, and L. Janiri, “The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health: A Systematic Descriptive Review,” Frontiers in Psychiatry 11, no. 74 (2020).
19. K. Uchoa, “The Deadly Chicago Heat Wave Is as Relevant to Racial Justice Today as It Was 25 Years Ago,” Natural Resources Defense Council, July 15, 2020.
20. D. Sherfinski, “How US Infrastructure Bill Aims to Cool ‘Urban Heat Islands,’” Christian Science Monitor, August 25, 2021.
21. B. León-Depass and C. Sakala, “Higher Temperatures Hurt Moms and Babies,” National Partnership for Women and Families, May 2021; and Ebi et al., “Hot Weather.”
22. R. Morse, Environmental Justice Through the Eye of Hurricane Katrina (Washington, DC: Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Health Policy Institute, 2008).
23. A. Thurston, H. Stöckl, and M. Ranganathan, “Natural Hazards, Disasters, and Violence Against Women and Girls: Global Mixed-Methods Systematic Review,” BMJ Global Health 6 (2021): e004377.
24. H. Perls, “U.S. Disaster Displacement in the Era of Climate Change: Discrimination & Consultation Under the Stafford Act,” Harvard Environmental Law Review 44, no. 2 (2020): 511–52.
25. YCC Team, “A Conversation with the NAACP’s Jacqueline Patterson,” Yale Climate Connections, July 12, 2021.
26. Perls, “U.S. Disaster Displacement.”
27. See, for example, D. Chow and C. Beltran, “Hungry and Desperate: Climate Change Fuels a Migration Crisis in Nicaragua,” NBC News, September 22, 2021.
28. Cianconi, Betrò, and Janiri, “The Impact of Climate Change.”
29. Y. Park and M.-P. Kwan, “Understanding Racial Disparities in Exposure to Traffic-Related Air Pollution: Considering the Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Population Distribution,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17, no. 3 (February 2020): 908.
30. Harvard T. H. Chan School for Public Health, “Decreased Vehicle Emissions Linked with Significant Drop in Deaths Attributable to Air Pollution,” press release, Harvard University, December 13, 2021.
31. L. Fleischman and M. Franklin, Fumes Across the Fence-Line: The Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Oil & Gas Facilities on African American Communities (New York: NAACP and Clean Air Task Force, November 2017).
32. D. Gonzalez et al., “Historic Redlining and the Siting of Oil and Gas Wells in the United States,” Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology (April 13, 2022).
33. P. Mohai and R. Saha, “Which Came First, People or Pollution? A Review of Theory and Evidence from Longitudinal Environmental Justice Studies,” Environmental Research Letters 10 (December 22, 2015): 125011.
34. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Cadmium Factsheet.”
35. L. Clark, D. Millet, and J. Marshall, “National Patterns in Environmental Injustice and Inequality: Outdoor NO2 Air Pollution in the United States,” PLoS ONE 9, no. 4 (2014): e94431.
36. C. Hemingway-Jones, “U.S. Oil Refineries Expose Communities to Cancer-Causing Benzene, Report Finds,” EcoWatch, May 13, 2022.
37. L. Fleischman, D. McCabe, and J. Graham, Gasping for Breath: An Analysis of the Health Effects from Ozone Pollution from the Oil and Gas Industry (Boston: Clean Air Task Force, August 2016).
38. Office of Minority Health, “Asthma and African Americans,” US Department of Health and Human Services; and L. Akinbami et al., “Trends in Racial Disparities for Asthma Outcomes Among Children 0–17 Years, 2001–2010,” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 134, no. 3 (September 2014): 547–553.e5.
39. J. Kurtz, “Bill Clinton: ‘Fair Chance’ US Could ‘Completely Lose’ Its Democratic System,” MSN, June 16, 2022.
40. History.com Editors, “Jim Crow Laws,” January 11, 2022.
41. K. Buchholz, “How Diverse Is U.S. Congress?,” Statista, January 7, 2021.
42. I. Vandewalker, “Since Citizens United, a Decade of Super PACs,” Brennan Center, January 14, 2020.
43. A. Stockler, “Nearly Half of All Individual Donations to Super PACs Were Made by 25 Mega-Wealthy Donors, New Report Says,” Newsweek, January 15, 2020.
44. M. Gilens and B. Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” Perspectives on Politics 12, no. 3 (September 2014): 564–581.
45. J. Noël, The Chilling Effect of Oil and Gas Money on Democracy: Environmental Policy and Oversight Influenced by Polluter Interests (Washington, DC: Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund, Spring 2016).
46. Noël, The Chilling Effect.
47. Sourcewatch, “Alec Corporations.”
48. A. Kaufman, “4 More States Propose Harsh New Penalties for Protesting Fossil Fuels,” Huffington Post, February 20, 2021.
49. E. Warren, “Corporate Capture of the Rulemaking Process,” Regulatory Review, June 14, 2016.
50. J. Raskin, “FERC Pipeline Approval Process Is Skewed Against Landowners,” US House Committee on Oversight and Reform, YouTube video, 12:10, April 28, 2020.
51. A. Chow, “Ohio’s New Energy Law: What You Should Know,” Statehouse News Bureau, July 26, 2019.
52. L. Wamsley, “Ohio House Speaker Arrested in Connection with $60 Million Bribery Scheme,” National Public Radio, July 21, 2020.
53. West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, 597 U.S. ___ (2022).
54. N. Ali and F. Islam, “The Effects of Air Pollution on COVID-19 Infection and Mortality—A Review of the Evidence,” Frontiers in Public Health, November 26, 2020.
55. P. Taddonio, “During the Coronavirus Crisis, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Rollbacks Continue,” PBS Frontline, April 10, 2020.
56. Fossil Fueled Foolery: An Illustrated Primer on the Fossil Fuel Industry’s Deceptive Tactics, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, April 2021).
57. R. Trager, “US Chemical Industry Lobby Group in the Hot Seat Again,” Chemistry World, July 19, 2015.
58. Office of Congressman Adam Schiff, “Congressman Schiff Introduces Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United,” press release, March 24, 2022; Office of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, “Jayapal Introduces Constitutional Amendment to Reverse Citizens United, Overturn Corporate Personhood,” April 6, 2021; and N. Zerillo, “Nonprofit Advocates Ramp Up Efforts to Reverse Citizens United,” Nonprofit Quarterly, January 25, 2021.
59. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, “Glick Names Montana Cole to Top Environmental Justice Post at FERC,” press release, May 20, 2021; and M. Wilson, “FERC’s EJ Counsel Says Agency Can Bolster Gas Oversight,” Energywire, E&E News, June 2, 2022.
60. Regulatory Assistance Project.
61. Anchorage Climate Action Plan (Anchorage, AK: Municipality of Anchorage, May 21, 2019).
62. Berkeley Climate Action Plan (Berkeley, CA: City of Berkeley, June 2, 2009).
63. M. Méndez, “Changing the Climate from the Streets of Oakland: How a Broad-Based Community Coalition Influenced the Creation of a Just, Equitable Energy and Climate Plan for the City,” Next City, December 9, 2019.
64. Coalition of Communities of Color, “The Origins of Portland Clean Energy Fund.”
65. DC Food Project, “Food Access.”
66. We the People of Detroit.
68. ReGenesis Community Development Corporation.
69. Leadership Development for the Sustainable Self Determination of Little Village.
70. Push Buffalo: People United for Sustainable Housing.
71. Cooperation Jackson.
73. Cultural Arts Coalition.
[Illustrations by Nicole Xu]