Extractive and exploitative systems have enriched some by oppressing others. The beneficiaries of these unsustainable systems produce the most planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions while the impacts of those emissions disproportionately harm those who contribute the least to the problem. Climate justice eliminates human-made systems that favor the advantaged and threaten Earth's ability to serve as our shared home. It replaces them with systems that are socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable.
The United States is one of the biggest producers of planet-warming emissions globally. The impact of these emissions often hit Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities first and worst. Evidence all around us shows that the climate crisis is making racial and socioeconomic inequities worse and is undermining critical efforts to address a wide swath of social, economic, and environmental challenges.
This global trend is evident in our local communities. For instance, discriminatory policies including redlining, have shaped San Diego communities that are divided by racial lines with clear disparities in access to opportunity. Public health studies consistently show that race and income map closely with pollution, heat, and other environmental risks that impact our lives in very real ways. For example, because of vastly different opportunities to live long and healthy lives, residents of La Jolla can expect to live 12.6 years longer than residents of City Heights. Structural racism is the cause of this difference.
By collaborating locally, we can leverage this unique moment in history to disrupt this trend. With an unwavering focus on climate justice, we know that historically marginalized communities have the most to gain from the clean energy transition.
August, L. (2021, September 20). CalEnviroScreen 4.0. OEHHA.
Beal, S. (2020). Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America—San Diego.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2022, December 8). Social Determinants of Health.
City of San Diego. (2019). San Diego’s Climate Equity Index Report. City of San Diego Sustainability Department.
County of San Diego, Land Use and Environment Group. (n.d.). Leading a regional effort to reduce community exposures to health hazards.
Environmental Protection Agency. EJScreen: Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Life Expectancy: Could where you live influence how long you live?
United Nations. (2021, August 9). IPCC report: ‘Code red’ for human driven global heating, warns UN chief | UN News.
World Health Organization (WHO). (n.d.). Social determinants of health.