EDF Voices: It’s Time For Latino Leadership On Climate Change

(Credit: Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

This post originally appeared at the Environmental Defense Fund, and is reprinted here with permission.

I love California in the summertime, and Fourth of July weekend is one of my favorite holidays. But it is getting excruciatingly HOT out here, and according to the best science, it is going to get much hotter.

This past weekend the West Coast broke nearly every temperature record on the books, well ahead of August and September, which are usually the hottest months of the year.

And last year was the hottest year on record for the continental United States. Crops were devastated, cities were hit by supercharged storms, and people — mostly the poor — suffered and died amid some of the most destructive extreme weather events in our history. All told, the United States spent more than $110 billion on weather related disasters in 2012.

There’s more bad news ahead. Extreme heat projections for the U.S. in 2030, based on research from Stanford University, show that the West and Southwest are going to get really, really hot!

Those regions, incidentally, are going to have the largest concentrations of people of color in the country, and Latinos will be the fastest growing part of that demographic. It doesn’t take a scientist to see that two freight trains — Latino population growth and extreme weather driven by climate change — are heading directly towards each other.

So will the climate change story end in disaster? Or could this be an opportunity to adapt to and overcome a great challenge? Latino leadership will be key to answering this question.

National polling data tells us that Latino voters see that something is terribly wrong, and overwhelmingly support action to fix it. Seventy-four percent of Latinos polled earlier this year believe climate change is a “serious problem” — almost 10 percent higher than the national average among all American adults. Another poll tells us that 86 percent of Latinos strongly support President Obama taking action to reduce pollution that causes climate change. What’s more, gender, income, education, nativity and even party affiliation do not significantly move the needle on Latinos’ commitment to tackling climate change.

Now for the exciting part: adapting to climate change will present one of the greatest opportunities to rebuild and enhance our infrastructure and economy, and to improve our public health. Why? Because adaptation will require major investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, as well as more green space and trees in our cities and more reliable (and low-carbon) transportation. We also need to stop burning the fossil fuels that are cooking our planet and polluting our air.

Got Sun?

For a start, why not begin capturing all that free solar energy with rooftop solar panels? This will reduce the strain on our electricity grid, and allow communities to stay cool without breaking the bank on the energy costs of air conditioning. Better still, building out solar will be good for the economy. In California, my home state, 92 percent of Latino voters want to increase the use of renewable energy, and 87 percent agreed that “growing the state’s solar energy industry will create new jobs in California.”

I’ve written before that the Clean Energy economy is an opportunity for Latinos, creating new demand for goods and services, new businesses, and new jobs. After all, somebody has to design and install all those solar panels, plant the trees, weatherize the homes and businesses, and operate and maintain our mass transit systems. That’s an easy argument to make to Latinos voters, 86 percent of whom said that they would prefer the country to invest in clean, renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels.

Last week I joined Latino leaders from Voces Verdes and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) to have a conversation about the need for better and cleaner infrastructure in a warming world. And President Obama made it clear last week that his administration will double down on climate change, calling for all of us to “seize the future.”

As the polls show, the President has overwhelming support for his initiative from Latinos in this country. It’s time for Latino leaders to follow suit by being at the forefront of those calling for action on climate change.

Jorge Madrid is a Tom Graff fel­low at En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund. He is also a mem­ber of the Board of Di­rec­tors of Vo­ces Verdes, and a for­mer Grad­u­ate Fel­low with the Con­gres­sional His­panic Cau­cus In­sti­tute, and the Cal­i­for­nia Latino Cau­cus Insti­tute.

3 Responses to EDF Voices: It’s Time For Latino Leadership On Climate Change

  1. John McCormick says:

    Off topic but it was a remarcable victory for the millions of Egyptians who demanded President Morsi leave.

    A year ago those millions in the streets of Cairo hated the army for its past violations of rights of citizens. Now, they are arm in arm with the Army in the ouster of Morsi.

    It is hard to understand how the Muslim Brotherhood Party presidency could have evaporated in a week.

    The council the will have the responsibility to govern the nation while preparing for national and parliamentary elections writing a constitution, etc. The Army will provide the assurance those steps are taken.

    Now, how EU, Japan, China, India and US react is the next public debate about what the Obama Administration demanded of Morsi for US support as being a legitimate candidate and then a President. He also supported Mubarrak.

    So, once again we are on the wrong side of the curtain..when will we ever learn that, in our democracy, decisions made solely on the basis of US maintaining relationships in the Middle East have costs.

    The masses of Egyptians know Obama backed the Muslim Brotherhood which those masses will remember.

    We know Egypt is one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and it is least prepared to adapt to those impacts.

    So, think tanks, universities, NGOs of all types can quickly come togethr and agree to adopt Egypt as a nation worth saving and serving. When they do, they can commit to a sensible approach that has Egyptians leading the appeal for support in science, disaster risk management, public health epidemic control, whatever they ask for.

  2. David F Collins says:

    Agreed that this is off topic. Separately, it is only tangentially related to the topic of the blog itself.

    That I agree with most of the comment is irrelevant to my comment.

  3. Daniel Coffey says:

    I think the rosy part of the story is over. Now comes the suffering. The physical assessment is correct, but the propsed response is not in line with what people will actually do. The notion of adaption entirely misunderstands the scale, scope, intensity and duration of global warming. There is not going to be much adaption because the adversity will outpace the resources required to adapt.