Speaking Up Loud and Clear

Communities on the front lines of climate change overwhelmingly support President Obama's Clean Power Plan.

When storms rage and floodwaters rise, it's generally people living in lower-lying areas who pay the highest price. When temperatures soar to dangerous levels, it's usually those who can't afford air-conditioning who suffer most. And when crops fail in the face of withering drought, the families that can least afford it bear the greatest burden from rising grocery bills.

Those are just a few ways that low-income communities tend to experience the impacts of climate change before the rest of us. Often it strikes hard at people of color, too.

Little wonder, then, that nearly seven in ten African Americans want real action against the mounting dangers of this widening scourge, or why a whopping 83 percent support the president's plan to cut the dangerous carbon pollution from our nation's dirtiest power plants.

Those are among the findings of an important new poll that queried 800 African American registered voters nationwide.

The poll found that 83 percent of African Americans support President Obama's plan for cleaning up the dirty power plants that account for about 40 percent of the nation's carbon footprint. Called the Clean Power Plan, it's the single most important measure we can adopt to fight global climate change.

Similarly, 82 percent of African Americans want their state to develop its own approach for hitting the carbon reduction targets in the president's plan.

That makes a lot of sense to me.

Part of the beauty of the Clean Power Plan is that it calls for exactly that:States come up with their own way to cut the carbon pollution in their own backyards.

Smart governors across the country are already busy developing their plans, tailoring them to their local energy mix to find the most cost-effective way to get the job done. And NRDC is working closely with states and communities to ensure that these plans are implemented in ways that help to promote equity among all groups.

Plans that help families and businesses use electricity more efficiently, for example, can cut their carbon footprint by cutting waste. Utility customers save money on their power bills in the process, a real benefit to low-income communities.

Other plans stress the opportunity to get more power from the wind and sun. In the first nine months of this year, in fact, those two clean energy sources powered 56.4 percent of all the new electricity-generating capacity installed in this country.

That shift, too, is in step with the views of most African Americans. Among those queried in the September poll, 87 percent say we should increase our use of solar power; 83 percent say we should harness more power from the wind.

One reason: 66 percent believe that investing in clean energy will create jobs. They're right about that, too; it's already happening.

Right now, we've got about a quarter of a million Americans helping us get more power from the wind and sun, and that's only the beginning. Those two sources are providing nearly 6 percent of our electricity nationwide. By 2050, they can provide two-thirds of our power, the U.S. Department of Energy tells us.

The cost of these technologies is falling fast. Installing a wind turbine coststwo-thirds less than it did five years ago; the cost of solar power has been cut in half. The shift to clean power is global, as are the jobs that come with it.

Private analysts expect $8 trillion to be invested in renewable power sourceslike wind and solar over the next 25 years worldwide. One way to make sure American workers get their fair share of the jobs from that bonanza is to master the technology right here at home.

Broadly robust and equitable implementation of the Clean Power Plan will help.

We're all paying a price for climate change. Some of us, though, are bearing a greater burden. It's a sorry commentary on inequity writ large, and it points to an urgent need for all of us to work harder to advance environmental justice everywhere.

One way to begin is by listening to those communities that all too often find themselves on the front lines of environmental degradation. When it comes to the perils of climate change, they're speaking up loud and clear.