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Why a U.S. "Southern Initiative" on Climate Justice is Needed

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NOAA Geography of Disaster in the US 1980-2010
NOAA Geography of Disaster in the US 1980-2010
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Climate-related disasters in the southern United States have outnumbered those in other regions of the U.S. annually in both scale and magnitude by a ratio of almost 4:1 during the past decade. The Southeast U.S. for the period 1980-2012 had more billion-dollar disasters than the rest of the country combined. The southern region is vulnerable because of its physical location. The region is also vulnerable because of its high prevalence of concentrated poverty, uninsured households, income and wealth inequality, health care disparities, and food insecurity--combined create a perfect storm of vulnerability if and when natural and human-made disasters strike.

What We Know

Given the South's unique history, a "southern initiative" is needed to address climate vulnerability, environmental injustice and the "look-the-other-way" practice of unequal protection and develop strategies for building just and resilient communities. Numerous reports document climate change "hot-spots" and the southern region's vulnerability, including the impact of drought, heat islands, flooding, hurricanes and sea-level rise--areas where low-income households, African Americans and other people of color are placed at special risk of poor health, socioeconomic barriers and climate-related challenges resulting from discriminatory government policies and actions. A few of these studies are listed below:

In the Wake of the Storm: Environment, Disaster and Race After Katrina (Pastor, Bullard, Boyce, Fothergill, Morello-Frosch, and Wright, 2006)

Vulnerability and Climate Change in the Southeast U.S. (Oxfam, 2009)

Climate Change Impacts in the Southern United States: Draft Discussion Paper (Stratus Consulting Inc. for EPA Region 4, 2010)

Social Vulnerability to Climate-Sensitive Hazards in the Southern United States (Christopher T. Emrich and Susan L. Cutter, 2011)

Climate Change, Environmental Challenges and Vulnerable Communities: Assessing Legacies of the Past, Building Opportunities for the Future (Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies 2012)

Climate Change and the Southeast (EPA, 2012)

The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities (Bullard and Wright, 2012)

Climate of the Southeast United States: Variability, Change, Impacts, and Vulnerability (NCA Regional Input Reports, 2013)

National Climate Assessment: Southeast and Caribbean (NCA, 2014)

Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States -- The Southeast (Kate Gordon et al., 2014)

Role of Black Colleges in the Quest for Climate Justice

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have played a significant role in training African Americans leaders in all fields. More than 80 percent of the 104 HBCUs are found in the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic region of the United states--a region of the country where intense hurricanes, drought, heatwaves, flooding, and other climate-sensitive hazards are commonplace. Many southern communities where HBCUs are located and where they draw the vast majority of their students are at ground zero in the fight for climate justice.

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Robert Bullard Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Linked In Page       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Robert D. Bullard is Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston. His most recent book is entitled "The Wrong Complexion (more...)

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