• June 18th, 2024
  • Tuesday, 03:32:09 PM

For Latino Communities and All of Colorado, it’s Time to Act on Climate


Ean Thomas Tafoya


Foto: Cortesia de Prospero Latino
Ean Thomas Tafoya

As wildfires rage, superstorms strike, flooding worsens, and communities endure dangerous heat days, a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) links the frequency and severity of these events unequivocally to human-caused climate change. We know we need to act with aggressive federal investments in clean energy and clean transportation infrastructure, for the sake of jobs, environmental justice, and a liveable climate — for Coloradans, and all Americans.


Climate change harms our Latino communities disproportionately, whether through the health impacts of air pollution, lack of access to weatherized and energy-efficient housing, or our overrepresentation in essential industries like agriculture and construction that are hit hard by climate disasters and air pollution. To protect our communities and our children’s futures, we demand that Congress act now to pass bold investments in clean energy infrastructure and climate change mitigation before it is too late.


For Latino communities, climate change is not some far-off risk, but a disaster of the here and now. Latino families live in areas disproportionately vulnerable to climate hazards and pollution and face unnecessarily high barriers when it comes to escaping and recovering from climate disasters. We must make investments in clean energy and resiliency so that no community lives at risk of having their lives destabilized by environmental catastrophe.


Proximity to pollution and polluting industries also places us at disproportionate risk of respiratory illnesses. Nationally, Latinos are 165 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of particulate pollution, and 51 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy ozone levels. This contributes to respiratory ailments that increase susceptibility to and worsen the effects of COVID-19, causing worse health outcomes for Latino communities in the face of this pandemic.

But we have the power to dismantle long-standing public health and environmental injustices with bold climate policies and targeted federal investments. One place to start is investing in clean transportation. Transportation emits more carbon pollution than any other sector, significantly driving pollution and the climate crisis. Major investments in the electric vehicle industry would not only phase out dirty cars, trucks, and buses, but they could also jumpstart a thriving domestic industry that would provide family-sustaining jobs for Coloradans.

Expanding public transportation would not only drive down carbon pollution but would also directly benefit Latino workers, who are three times more likely to commute via public transportation to work than their white counterparts. Investing to make our cities — as well as suburban and rural areas — more liveable and navigable, particularly for low-income communities and the historically marginalized, goes hand in hand with facilitating a just transition to clean energy.


Our members of Congress can’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect the future of Latino communities and all Coloradans by passing the necessary investments in clean energy and climate resiliency.


President Biden committed at the start of his presidency to the Justice40 Initiative, which mandates that the federal government aim 40 percent of the benefits of all climate investments at the communities who’ve borne the brunt of pollution. This includes Latino communities, who need to be part of our country’s electrification. Our representatives in Congress must ensure that environmental justice is at the cornerstone of climate investments in order to accelerate an equitable transition. Anything less would be letting down the communities who’ve already suffered most from systemic injustices.

Mitigating climate change goes further than just driving down carbon pollution. Only by ensuring breathable air and drinkable water, transforming our infrastructure to run on clean energy, embracing nature-based solutions like forestry and sustainable agriculture, and making clean energy and climate resiliency jobs plentiful can we actually mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Latino communities recognize this need — it’s no wonder seven in ten Latinos are highly concerned about climate change and ranked it as a priority in the 2020 elections. Recently, 90 of the nation’s leading Latino-focused and Latino-serving allied organizations, sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Congress demanding action on climate.

Our members of Congress can’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect the future of Latino communities and all Coloradans by passing the necessary investments in clean energy and climate resiliency. The window to act on climate change is closing rapidly, but there is still time to avert many of the worst impacts — and by doing so, provide equity, opportunity, and hope. We can’t miss this moment.


Ean Thomas Tafoya is GreenLatinos’ Colorado Field Advocate. He lives in Denver, Colorado.


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