Burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide and other air pollutants that can worsen asthma and other illnesses.

But not all people are equally at risk. Black Americans are more likely to live near polluting facilities. And as the climate changes, many Black communities are also vulnerable to increasingly extreme weather.

“So everything has been exacerbated,” says Beverly Wright, founder of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and co-chair of the National Black Environmental Justice Network.

Wright is also a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. And she says rebuilding after the storm was difficult.

“Because of racist practices that had been in existence for years, a house in a Black neighborhood was worth less than the same house in a white neighborhood,” she says. “And so since our houses had been devalued, the amount of money we were given to assist in rebuilding our houses was far less than what white people got. The problem was the amount of money that it cost to rebuild a house was the same whether you lived in a white neighborhood or a Black neighborhood.”

Intersecting environmental, economic, and health burdens disproportionally impact people of color, so Wright says racial justice must be at the center of climate policies.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.