According to a Monmouth University Poll, 93% of liberals, 86% of moderates, and 62% of conservatives think the world’s climate is undergoing a change that is causing more extreme weather patterns and the rise of sea levels. A total of 88% of liberals, 79% of moderates, and 42% of conservatives believe climate change is caused by either human activity or equally caused by natural changes in the environment and human activity combined. Climate change is not a partisan issue, it is a global and national crisis that must be addressed by Congress.
The International Panel on Climate Change report, Global Warming of 1.5° C, in conjunction with the Global Change Research Program report, Fourth National Climate Assessment, both point to the need for comprehensive and urgent climate solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if the United States and the world are to avoid catastrophic consequences to both the human and natural environments in the coming decade.
Greenhouse gas emissions from our nation’s fossil fuel consumption pollute the air we breathe and worsen extreme weather events, heat and aridification, drought, and wildfires, further contributing to the vast socioeconomic disparities in our country. Communities that lack access to resources and services to prepare, recover, and adapt to these pressing and severe threats are more vulnerable to the current and looming public health and economic consequences of climate change.
Latino communities across the United States have already experienced disproportionate health and economic impacts of poor air quality, extreme heat and aridification, wildfires, drought and other severe effects of climate change. With our nation’s shifting demographics and Latinos on track to becoming 30% of the U.S. population by 2050, Latinos will continue to experience these severe consequences at a disproportionate rate.
Why is this important to Latino communities?
Access & Health
- Latinos are 165% more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution, and 51% more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone than are non-Hispanic whites.
- More than 1.81 million Latinos live within one half mile of existing oil and gas facilities. As a result, many Latino communities face an elevated risk of cancer and respiratory health risks due to air toxics emissions from oil and gas development.
- Latino children are 60% more at risk than their white counterparts of having asthma attacks exacerbated by air pollution. As climate change worsens air quality, Latinos will be disproportionately impacted.
- In 2015, 19.5% of the Hispanic population was not covered by health insurance, as compared to 6.3% of the non-Hispanic white population.
- Asthma costs the U.S. $56 billion — $50 billion in direct healthcare costs and $6 billion in lost productivity. A third of these total costs can be attributed to urgent care services associated with asthma.
- The poverty among Latinos in 2016 was 19.4%, compared to the national poverty rate of 12.7%. This means that 1 in 5 Latinos will not have the economic resources to prepare, adapt, or cope with health issues, disasters, increasing temperatures, job insecurity, and other consequences of climate change.
Jobs & Economy
- The United States federal and state governments gave away $20.5 billion a year on average in 2015 and 2016 in production subsidies to the oil, gas, and coal industries, including $14.7 billion in federal subsidies and $5.8 billion through state-level incentives.
- 78% of Latino voters, compared to 68% of all voters, think that increasing the use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar will create jobs.
- 86% of Latino voters prefer that the government invest in clean, renewable energy like solar and wind, while just 11% of Latinos prefer investments in fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas.
- Currently, climate change and air pollution’s external effects - alone - are approximately in the range of costing $2.2 - $5.9 trillion per year, while the all-in-all cost of the global energy supply is around 5 trillion USD per year.
- The US Department of Energy reported that 3,384,834 Americans were directly employed by the clean energy industry (which includes the energy efficiency, smart grid, and energy storage industries; electric power generation from renewables; renewable fuels production; and the electric, hybrid, and hydrogen-based vehicle industries) in 2016.
- 87% Latino voters, with all wages and benefits equal, would prefer to work in the clean energy industry rather than at a fossil fuel company or oil refinery.
- Proportionally, solar employment accounts for the largest share of workers in the electric power generation sector. This is largely due to the construction related to the significant buildout of new solar generation capacity. Solar technologies, both photovoltaic and concentrating, employ 43% of the Electric Power Generation workforce. This is followed by fossil fuel generation employment, which accounts for 22% of total Electric Power Generation employment.
- Latinos comprise 19% of the total electric power generation workforce and 21% of wind and solar employment compared to comprising only 16% of national workforce averages.
- Three in four Latinos want corporations and industry (77%), citizens themselves (74%), President Trump (74%), and the U.S. Congress (73%) to do more to address global warming.
- A large majority of Latinos (68%) think the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions “regardless of what other countries do.”
- 81% of Latinos support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax.
- Half of Latinos “strongly support” funding more research into renewable energy (55%), regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (50%), or providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (48%).
- Many Latinos are willing to take political action on global warming. A majority of Latinos, 60%, would vote for a candidate for public office because of their position on global warming.
- 80% of Latino voters, compared to 65% of all voters, think the highest priority for meeting America’s energy needs is to reduce our need for more coal, oil and gas by expanding our use of clean, renewable energy that can be generated in the U.S.
- 74% of Latino voters in the West want to encourage solar power in their state, followed by 54% want to encourage wind power, 26% natural gas, 7% oil, and 4% coal.
- 81% of Latino voters would like to continue tax incentives for solar and wind energy production.
Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. To implement this mission, the EPA is obligated to implement programs under the Clean Air Act, which aims to reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants that cause cancer or other serious health effects; cause smog, haze, acid rain, or contribute to poor air quality; and phase out the production and use of chemicals that destroy stratospheric ozone.
Clean Air Act
The Clean Air Act aims to protect public health and welfare nationwide and enacted by Congress in 1970, requires the EPA to establish national ambient air quality standards based on the latest science, and requires states to adopt enforceable plans to achieve the standards. The law calls for new stationary sources to be built with best technology, and allows less stringent standards for existing stationary sources.
The following regulations set in place under the EPA were important to improving air quality and protecting human health. These regulations were especially significant for Latino communities because of the disproportionate exposure to fossil fuel emissions and related health issues that Latino families endure.
Crucial regulations that were implemented by the EPA, under the purview of the Clean Air Act and in the best interest of protecting public health and welfare nationwide, are now facing significant rollbacks and proposals to repeal such regulations. It is important for Congress to understand the depth of these rollbacks and use its oversight authority to question these rollbacks and deregulations because they are in stark contradiction to the legal obligation of the EPA and the Clean Air Act to protect human health, air quality, and the environment. The following regulations have been or are in the process of being modified or repealed within the last year:
- 2016 New Source Performance Standards - curbed emissions of methane, smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic air pollutants such as benzene from new, reconstructed and modified oil and gas sources, while providing greater certainty about Clean Air Act.
- Clean Car Standards - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the Department of Transportation (DOT) has set fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks since 1975. The EPA has also set greenhouse gas emission standards since 2010. These combined standards improve the fuel economy of cars, lower emissions, improve air quality and save families on gas money.
- Clean Power Plan - In 2015, the EPA established the Clean Power Plan rule, which set limits on carbon emissions from the fossil fuel power sector, with a projection to reduce carbon emissions by 32% of 2005 levels by 2030. The CPP allowed states the flexibility to create plans to figure out how to best achieve these emissions reductions.
- Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) - sets limits on the amount of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants (HAP) from power plants.
Bureau of Land Management
While not under the direct purview of the EPA, it is important to understand the full scope of regulations that the federal government is capable of enacting to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
- BLM Methane Waste Prevention Rule - adopted in November 2016, sought to prevent the loss of natural gas through venting, flaring, and leaks on public lands. BLM estimated that, as a result of the rule, oil and natural gas producers operating on public lands would capture enough methane to supply approximately 740,000 households. The rule was also estimated to reduce methane emissions by up to 180,000 tons per year.33