People of color and low-income communities are disproportionately affected by exposure to pollution from coal fired power plants. To advance environmental and climate justice issues, the NAACP’s “Coal Blooded Action Toolkit” provides the necessary framework and tools to build a foundation for eliminating pollution from coal for impacted communities. The chemicals and heavy metal pollutants spewing from coal fired power plants affects communities in many ways. To gain a better picture of the economic and public health impacts here’s a snapshot:
- Seventy-one percent of African Americans live in counties in violation of air pollution standards.
- Approximately 68% of African Americans live within 30 miles of coal fired power plants.
- An African American family making $50,000 per year is more likely to live near a toxic facility than a White American family making $15,000 per year.
- A recent study showed that property values of homes near toxic facilities like coal fired power plants have 15% lower than average values in the general markets for those cities.
- At the same time, while African Americans spent $40 billion on energy in 2009, African Americans only comprised 1.1% of those employed in the energy sector and earn less than 1% of the revenue derived from the energy market.
- Though African American communities disproportionately host plants that economically degrade neighborhoods, they reap only trace amounts of the profits.
- A report on power plant pollution found that emissions from all power plants in the U.S. (both coal and other fuel sources) are responsible for 30,000 premature deaths, 7,000 asthma-related emergency room visits, and 18,000 cases of chronic bronchitis each year.
- Asthma affects African Americans at a 36 percent higher rate of incidence than White Americans. African Americans are hospitalized for asthma at three times the rate of White Americans and die of asthma at twice the rate of White Americans.
- Pollution like carbon dioxide or CO2 is the most significant greenhouse gas released by human activities, mostly through the burning of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), solid waste, trees and wood products – It is the main contributor to climate change.
- Climate change is expected to affect the health of millions of people directly— from heat waves, floods, and storms—and indirectly—by increasing smog and ozone in cities, contributing to the spread of infectious diseases, and reducing the availability and quality of food and water.
- African-Americans are also disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of climate change. For example, loss of property and livelihoods are considerable in times of disaster and many.
- African American families are underinsured and thus, differentially impacted. Among other factors, including underinsurance and wealth deficits, African American families can be very challenged in having the resilience to recover in the wake of disasters and displacement.
- African American farmers, many of whom are already struggling to maintain their livelihoods, can no longer rely on typical season lengths, as longer or shorter periods of heat cause damage to their crops. Crops have been lost, particularly throughout the Midwest and the South during flooding, which is set to increase due to the proliferation of climate change.
- With African American communities being disproportionately coastal dwelling, displacement of people due sea level rise has also resulted in cultural erosion and this will only increase as global warming continues to melt the ice caps.
- African Americans and Latinos already disproportionately live in food deserts where communities lack access to nutritious foods. The shift in agricultural yields resulting from climate change will only worsen these circumstances.