The growing magnitude of climate disruptions has quickly become a threat multiplier to all of us and particularly to under-resourced communities.
Food, water, heat and health vulnerability are emerging burdens, in addition to the more obvious and commonly discussed issues, from rising sea levels and climate migration to severe storms and sunny day flooding. South Florida is feeling the effects of a planet forced to deal with rapidly increasing carbon pollution. It is vital that Floridians prepare to withstand new threats in the 21st century.
Climate change actually presents us with an opportunity to rectify —and not repeat— the injustices of last century’s growth that left so many people behind. To tackle these problems and create more resilient communities, the CLEO Institute in conjunction with the Center for American Progress suggest the creation of a Florida Future Fund. This would combine private and public funding to support innovative transportation, energy infrastructure projects and flood protections in areas that need them the most, including low-income areas and communities of color.
Florida’s poor communities and communities of color disproportionately bear the burden of pollution and are also the least able to recover from storms. These inequities will grow worse as the current administration axes environmental protections.
The EPA’s own report showed that the current administration’s rollbacks to the Clean Power Plan could lead to 1,400 additional premature deaths per year. Furthermore, the EPA’s plans to reduce clean car standards will lead to more smog and pollution, especially in urban centers.
According to the NAACP, nearly a million African-Americans nationwide live within a half mile of oil and gas facilities that spew carcinogenic and climate change pollutants. The oil and natural gas industries that are contributing significantly to climate change also violate air quality standards in many African American and Latino communities, causing over 138,000 asthma attacks among children and over 100,000 missed school days each year. African American children are 10 times more likely to die from asthma than white children.
The Freedom to Breathe bus tour is helping to connect these communities and shine a light on how environmental degradation compounds social injustices throughout the region. CLEO, WLRN, Climate Nexus, and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens recently hosted the Miami stop of the tour with a panel discussion on climate gentrification and related climate justice issues that affect Miami-area residents.
In Miami, communities of color are at risk of displacement from sea-level rise. As developers and seaside residents seek to rent and buy inland property at higher elevations, historically black communities could be priced out of their own neighborhoods.
These kinds of battles are underway in big cities and small towns across the Gulf Coast, and will only intensify as the effects of climate change hit harder. Florida’s farm workers are fighting for better working conditions as extreme heat makes outdoor labor dangerous and deadly.
Florida voters have an opportunity this November to stand up against offshore drilling. To start, we can protect our beaches, unique wetlands, and priceless marine life from offshore drilling by voting yes on Amendment 9. We must not gamble with our biggest economic engine. It should be written into our state’s constitution that we value our environment and our public health over the profits of the oil and gas industry.
If we want to protect our communities and our kids’ futures, as well as our air, our water, and our beautiful beaches, we need to work together not just to combat climate change but to ensure that Florida becomes more resilient, equitable, and more just for all.
Caroline Lewis and Yoca Arditi-Rocha are Co-Executive Directors of
The CLEO Institute.
“The Invading Sea” is a collaboration of four South Florida media organizations — the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media.