As women of faith, we’re both gravely concerned for the state of the air in Georgia. Despite progress made statewide in cutting carbon pollution and achieving net-zero climate goals, residents in Fulton County continue to be exposed to some of the most polluted air in the state.
This year, Fulton County yet again received a failing grade from the American Lung Association for ozone pollution—a dangerous air pollutant that directly endangers vulnerable populations in our community. This group includes 23,124 asthmatic children, 63,113 asthmatic adults, and 58,717 neighbors dealing with COPD in Fulton County.
For them, ozone warning days mean more asthma attacks, respiratory infections, and trips to the hospital when coughing fits become too severe to bear. Asthmatic children forgo afternoons playing outside with their friends in the summer months when ozone pollution is greatest. And parents are oftentimes forced to make the difficult decision to pull their children out of school when the air is unsafe.
Ozone pollution is debilitating to some families. It also does irreparable harm to our environment by accelerating climate change and devastating ecosystems.
At St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, our commitment to Creation Care is rooted in the truth that we must above all care for the home that God has given us. At St. Luke’s, we have been community leaders in embracing Creation Care through responsible use of our resources, sustainable practices in energy and water use, minimization of waste, purchase of sustainably made products, education, and worship.
To keep our covenant with God to care for our home, our earth, for the benefit of ourselves, our neighbors, and our children, addressing climate change must be central to our faith and actions. The severity of the problem we face, however, requires bold, coordinated action from our leaders.
The Build Back Better Act (BBBA) contains climate solutions for Georgia and the nation to guide our path forward. Also, the BBBA invests in our people and economy and will help transition us away from the fossil fuels and dirty vehicles driving ozone pollution and help revive communities that have borne the disproportionate brunt of this pollution.
The BBBA is a once-in-a-generation investment, including more than $620 billion in improvements to transform our transportation infrastructure—the largest source of climate pollution in our country. It also features significant investments to bolster the growing market for pollution-free electric vehicles.
By significantly investing in our energy infrastructure, the BBBA can help Georgia modernize our electrical grid to move cleaner, cheaper electricity to communities throughout the state. Not only will Georgians pay less for our electricity—we won’t have to burn fossil fuels to get it.
It’s no secret that the areas with the dirtiest air continue to be disproportionately lower-income communities and Black or Latino neighborhoods. Environmental injustice is one of the most persistent threats to racial equity, and the proposed legislation seeks to address this by fully targeting 40% of the benefits of investments in climate and clean infrastructure to disadvantaged communities.
Metro Atlanta desperately needs these investments—our communities also want them. Multiple polls have found that voters across Georgia, including those right here in Metro Atlanta, support addressing the climate crisis by transitioning to clean energy, reducing carbon pollution from vehicles and industry, and making homes and buildings more energy efficient.
Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are climate and environmental justice advocates. Now is the time for them to lead us forward and help President Biden advance his bold plan to transform our economy and clean up our air for our children.