African Americans are struggling with a disproportionate death toll from COVID-19 and severe financial strain from the economic downturn. This crisis has exposed preexisting racial disparities created by deep-seated social, economic and political factors. 

These same underlying issues make African Americans more vulnerable to health damage from pollution, as well as from heat waves, storms and other effects of climate change. 

Meanwhile, African Americans are missing out on wealth-creation opportunities in the clean energy economy, which could be an effective solution to some of these underlying issues — bringing jobs and environmental benefits to communities that need it the most.

In this episode of Political Climate, the fifth in our "Path to Zero" series with Third Way, we look at how COVID-19 and climate change are affecting African American communities, and how these issues can be tackled in tandem. 

We speak to Jared DeWese and Akunna Cook at Third Way about the multiple crises facing African Americans today. We also hear from Naomi Davis, a grassroots leader and green-village builder in Chicago’s Southside, who succeeded in shaping a landmark clean energy bill in Illinois. 

Finally, we speak to Tony Reames, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, about the issue of “energy injustice.” We also discuss takeaways from preliminary research on how African Americans are thinking about climate and energy issues in 2020.

Recommended reading:

  • National Geographic: African Americans Struggle With Disproportionate COVID Death Toll
  • NYT: New Research Links Air Pollution to Higher Coronavirus Death Rates
  • Quartz: The Overwhelming Whiteness of U.S. Environmentalism Is Hobbling the Fight Against Climate Change
  • ISEA: Future Energy Jobs Act Workforce Development Programs
  • HuffPost: Solar Power Has a Diversity Problem

Political Climate is produced in partnership with the USC Schwarzenegger Institute. “Path to Zero” is created in partnership with the public policy think tank Third Way. Episodes air monthly on the Political Climate podcast feed. Listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherGoogle Play or wherever you get podcasts.