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Climate change in California continues to take a toll on our environment, our communities and our way of life. These impacts range from increasingly frequent and extreme instances of wildfires, droughts, heat waves, floods, air and water quality concerns, sea-level rise and coastal erosion, as well as the spread of infectious diseases. Our leaders must address the social, economic and environmental impact of climate change and take immediate action to ensure a sustainable future for all Californians.

While all Californians will suffer from the impacts of climate change, some will suffer more. Increasingly, the people least responsible for and most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change—such as low-income individuals and families, people of color, women, the young, the elderly, people with disabilities, people with existing health issues, immigrants and refugees, and agricultural workers and day laborers—not only feel the immediate impacts of climate change more powerfully, but also have the fewest resources to help them adapt. Climate justice means ensuring that no group of people shoulders more than it should of the burdens of climate impacts or the costs of addressing them.

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Climate Justice Report

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Healthy Energy Systems

Building a healthy energy system means advancing the clean energy "revolution" that reduces carbon emissions from our energy and transport systems creating more healthy communities. Polluting energy production processes, such as oil and gas extraction, often pose extreme health and environmental hazards to local communities. For example, the process of "fracking" for oil and gas consumes massive amounts of water and can pollute the air, soil and drinking water of communities living nearby. 95% of fracking in California takes place in Kern County and the practice is expanding. Kern County is also an agricultural region, where the community is largely immigrant, people of color and low income. This means, in Kern County, the impacts of fracking and oil drilling drive environmental destruction, public health problems and racial discrimination. Despite recent attempts to reign in fracking and other dangerous oil drilling techniques, it remains a largely unregulated practice in California.

Advancing climate justice through cleaner energy solutions such as non-coal electric, wind and solar power will create more jobs and combat climate change by reducing pollutants while continuing to provide energy for all. Investing in clean energy will save families millions of dollars on health care costs and likely reduce the incidence of heart attacks, asthma and other preventable illnesses caused by polluted sources of energy.

Inclusive Economic Growth

The emergence of green technology will create new jobs. Although this is a step in the right direction, it could be damaging to families of color whose incomes rely heavily on the agriculture and construction sectors that generate massive greenhouse gas emissions. The need to transition those sectors into greener forms is essential to reducing poverty and continuing to provide jobs in a sustainable manner.

Climate justice includes creating environmentally friendly jobs that in turn create pathways out of poverty and lead to a sustainable economic future.

Sustainable Communities

As we move toward sustainability, communities of color could have to pay more just for basic necessities. These communities are the most impacted by economic hardship and environmental blight

Five of the smoggiest cities in California also have the highest densities of people of color and low-income residents. Additionally, these groups spend as much as 25% of their entire income on food, electricity, and water. Polluted urban neighborhoods are exposed to higher temperatures (urban island effect) which increase the risk of heat-related illnesses or deaths. In addition, these areas require more electricity for air cooling which increases electricity costs, hard for low-income families to afford.

In more rural areas, extreme weather events, wildfires, and coastal flooding are just some of the impacts of climate change that negatively impact agriculture, tourism, and domestic profitability in California. Commercial and subsistence farmers and fisherman will be less able to support themselves, and may be less able to transition to other livelihoods.

Advancing climate justice to reduce our carbon footprint and use environmentally-friendly products will help our communities grow healthier and stronger in a sustainable manner.

Land And Ocean Stewardship

Taking stewardship of the land and oceans where they live allows low-income and communities of color to build healthy, sustainable economies and prevent the displacement of families.

Pollution and blight take a toll on the health of these communities which are more likely to consume fish from contaminated water and live near polluting factories where they are exposed to toxic chemicals and poor air quality.

Community advocates are taking an active role in their future by being part of the solution and deciding what happens to their land and water. Using green space and parks to grow healthy food for the community is one of several solutions already being implemented. Cleaning up rivers and other contaminated water sources is the next step to ensuring safe food sources for these communities.

By advancing climate justice and ensuring the conservation of our land and oceans, future generations will be able to enjoy the natural resources available and live healthier lives.

Transformative Climate Investment

As policy makers lag behind, those living in polluted neighborhoods most impacted by climate change have joined together to come up with solutions. Young environmentalists have already started programs to raise awareness for green ideas and healthier foods.

Investing in communities of color through education and funding of programs increases the civic engagement of communities of color. Through strong representation and voter turnout, these communities can stimulate policy changes at the local level and beyond by pushing their political leaders to pursue sustainable environmental policies that will benefit all.