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An Introduction to Climate Justice.

Climate change is not equal.

For disadvantaged groups, inequality becomes greater as climate change becomes stronger. Over the next month and a half, LACCD will be focusing on issues and solutions related to climate justice.

In 2017, the United Nations published a paper titled "Climate Change and Social Inequality." It identifies three ways in which social inequality and climate change interact to make inequality even worse, proclaiming the relationship a "vicious cycle".

The cycle works like this:

Inequality present in disadvantaged communities:

(1) Increases their vulnerability to the dangerous effects of climate change;
(2) Increases their susceptibility to damage caused by climate change; and
(3) Decreases their ability to cope and recover from the damage suffered.

These interactions result in even greater inequality than what initially existed.

Climate justice seeks to break this cycle by prioritizing justice for communities that are the most vulnerable to climate change. It ensures that they do not suffer and face greater inequality as a result of fighting the climate crisis and that climate solutions promote equity and justice.

Inequality from climate change is a result of environmental racism.

Map: People of color Bear Greater Air Pollution Burden. Description: Non-white people face higher exposure to particulate matter air pollution than white people do in all but four states (Maryland, New Mexico, North Dakota and West Virginia) and Washington, D.C. People of color living in Indiana and Alabama are exposed to roughly twice as much particulate pollution than white people.
In 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a study finding that people of color are more exposed to cancer-causing particulate matter than white people across the country. The findings show that black people are exposed to about 1.5 times more particulate matter than white people, and that Hispanics are about 1.2 times more exposed than non-Hispanic whites.

This is because race influences the likelihood of siting and land-use decisions that increase exposure to environmental and health risks and, often, impact accessibility to healthcare. As a result, people of color are more likely to live near freeways, sewage treatment plants, garbage landfills, and hazardous waste sites that pollute the environment and jeopardize human health, creating significant inequality in the amount of environmental harms that people of color face compared to white people. This is a historical phenomenon called environmental racism

Environmental racism is pervasive across the U.S. and at the international level. According to the U.N., as the impacts of climate change accelerate, extreme weather events are taking a major toll in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia. Global warming of 2˚C would put over half of Africa’s population at risk of undernourishment; as of today, we have already reached about 1°C. In many of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa – such as Chad, Niger and the Central African Republic – the average carbon footprint is around than 160 times lower than the U.S., Australia and Canada (countries with some of the highest per capita emissions in the world). So while countries with people of color tend to have the smallest impact on climate change, they'll likely pay for the bulk of the damage caused by their highly industrialized counterparts who often stand to profit off climate change.

Climate change inequality is a symptom of environmental racism. Racism is “inexorably” linked to climate change because it dictates who benefits from activities that produce planet-warming gases and who suffers most from the consequences. Climate change perpetuates racial inequality by harming communities of color at disproportionate rates, making them even more vulnerable to climate change and growing inequality as their local environments become more degraded by climate change. People of color all over the world will feel the worst and first impacts of climate change because of environmental racism unless we develop climate change solutions that promote racial justice and equity.

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice, explained. Video Credits: Grist.
"... Those who are already disadvantaged by race, wealth, and income are usually the most affected by environmental disasters. Without recognizing that inequality, we’re not always solving the problems with our water, air, and soil in ways that serve the people who need it most — which is why environmental justice is a critical part of planning a green future that’s good for everyone."
Environmental justice is the principle idea that

"All people and communities have the right to equal environmental protection under the law, and the right to live, work and play in communities that are safe, healthy and free of life-threatening conditions."

Climate justice branches off of environmental justice and argues that all people have these rights but that communities disadvantaged by social inequality (who have historically been denied these rights) will need the most protection from the climate crisis. The best way to provide this protection is to center justice and to promote equity in steps to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. In other words, we desperately need to understand and act upon the fact that racial justice IS climate justice. Failing to address the fact that environmental racism creates the conditions that allow for the planet's worst environmental harms to exist means failing to address one of the root causes of the climate crisis.

Over the next several weeks, we'll take a closer look at the variety of strategies, perspectives, and skill sets that are necessary to combat the climate crisis and achieve climate justice in our newsletter and as part of the LACCD Climate Action & Justice Speaker Series starting tomorrow, September 15th (see details below in the weekly events section). To learn more about the history of the environmental justice movement, you can watch this brief video or learn more from the "Father of the Environmental Justice", Dr. Robert Bullard, below.
Dr. Robert Bullard is known as the "Father of Environmental Justice". You can learn more about environmental justice and how "pollution is segregated" in the video above and can find more learning materials at Dr. Bullard's website.
Energy Action of the Week
Beat the Heat While Safer At Home LADWP Graphic: 1)Set your AC to 78 degrees. 2) Do laundry and run the dishwasher in the evenings. 3)Turn off lights when you leave the room. 4) Skip cooking and order takeout to support a local restaurant. Learn more at
Beat the Heat While Safer at Home
Combat the climate crisis by saving energy with LADWP! As we spend more time at home and the weather starts to get warmer, we may find ourselves using more water and electricity than usual.

By following a few simple conservation tips or signing up for LADWP programs and rebates, you can beat the heat and keep your utility costs down. Visit for more information. Check out LADWP's Carbon Footprint Calculator to see how your energy saving actions help fight the climate crisis.
The LACCD Climate Action & Justice Speaker Series Graphic

The LACCD Climate Action & Justice Speaker Series

From September 15th to October 30th, join us to hear why diverse perspectives and skill sets are essential to fighting the climate crisis. You’ll hear from a variety of organizations working to advance climate action and justice and learn how you, as a student, can help make a difference by bringing your own skills to the table.

Link to Speaker Schedule
Breathe L.A. Speaker Presentation Graphic

Breathe L.A. (September 15, 12:00 PM PT)

Breathe L.A. is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes clean air and healthy lungs through education, research, technology and advocacy. Join us to learn about the intersection of public health and climate justice from Breathe L.A.

Link to Zoom Presentation

WARNING: Monitor Your Air Quality

Los Angeles set records with the worst smog pollution it's had in almost 30 years over Labor Day weekend from a combination of a major wildfire and extreme heat, reports the L.A. Times. Smog contains ozone and other air pollutants that can harm human health at high levels. Stay safe by monitoring the air quality index where you live and taking the correct precautions.

Check Out L.A.'s Air Quality Index and Tips to Stay Safe
Are you an LACCD-associated student, staff, or faculty member with a story or materials you‘d like to have featured in our monthly sustainability newsletter? Please email submissions to and include the subject title “LACCD: Sustainably” in your email.
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LACCD: Sustainably is a publication of the Los Angeles Community College District’s SEI Facilities and Energy Management Fellowship.

Chloe Ney, SEI Facilities and Energy Management Fellow, (213) 891-2484,
Aris Hovasapian, Utility Program Manager, (213) 891-2239,

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