Opinion Editorial

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Contact: Antonio Gonzalez (323) 222-2217

Global warming is a Latino issue


DANGEROUS LEVELS of global warming pollution are already hurting California communities at an accelerating rate. But there is good news: We know how to reduce emissions in a way that is good for the economy, creates jobs, and reduces local air pollution.

Global warming is not a problem of the distant future — 2005 was the hottest year in recorded history, and the last two decades have been the hottest in more than 1,000 years.

Here in California, we are already seeing record heat waves, increased forest fires, and decreases in the snow pack.

Hurricane Katrina taught us that the disruption of normal climate caused by global warming will always play favorites. About two-thirds of Latinos already live in areas that fail to meet government clean-air standards, and Latinos are 16 percent more likely to die from asthma attacks than whites. Sacramento is actually more vulnerable to flooding than New Orleans — further below the water line and with levees in worse condition. If a flood hits, the people hurt most will be working families, the uninsured, and those with limited resources.

Unchecked global warming will devastate agriculture and slash tourism and the hospitality industry, where many Latinos are employed. More hot, dry days mean more and more serious wildfires.

Tropical diseases are spreading northwards, and those without quality health care are most at risk. For the 20 percent of Latinos who live below the poverty line, and the more than 30 percent who are uninsured, this is a looming economic, social and public health disaster.

For these reasons, Latinos, blacks and other constituencies not usually associated with "environmentalism" are taking action. For example, the first comprehensive national gathering of Latino leadership since 1977 is taking place in Los Angeles on Sept 6-10.

In California, paramount Latino leaders are already taking practical action. A bill sponsored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, Assemblywoman Fran Pavley and others, A.B. 32, would point the state in the right direction, by requiring state agencies to develop and implement a plan to cut global warming pollution. If enacted into law it would make California a national and global leader in combating global warming.

Policies that require polluters to pay for the environmental costs they impose on the rest of us, using the revenue to boost clean energy, energy efficiency, and a host of other smart investments, can reduce pollution, create up to150,000 new jobs, lower energy bills, and position California at the forefront of new technology markets. These policies save money on expensive imported oil and natural gas.

This bill possibly will be voted on this week. We need this bill, and we need to be firm, both in support and in keeping the language strong. The sordid cast of usual suspects are lining up to try to weaken the environmental standards and add loopholes, foreclose a polluter-pays approach and replace it with handouts to big energy companies paid for by consumers, and to defeat the bill outright. Many of the state representatives who are wavering represent districts where our numbers are strong. Let's make sure our voices are strong as well.

For more information on the National Latino Congress see http://www.latinocongreso.org.

Antonio Gonzalez is president of the William C. Velasquez Institute and Michel Gelobter is executive director of Oakland's Redefining Progress.


The William C. Velásquez Institute (WCVI) is a tax-exempt, non-profit, non-partisan organization chartered in 1985. The purpose of WCVI is to conduct research aimed at improving the level of political and economic participation in Latino and other underrepresented communities. Chartered in 1985, the William C. Velasquez Institute is a nonpartisan, non-profit, Latino-oriented research and policy think tank with offices in San Antonio, Texas and Los Angeles, California .





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