In an auditorium in New York City, students, changemakers, and politicians alike are gathered this week for the Clinton Global Initiative September 2022 Meeting. A meeting of the minds, this event, for many years, brought global leaders together to act on health equity, economic growth, women’s rights, and world crises. And after a lengthy hiatus, the Clintons are back. The timing feels ordained.
In an ever-evolving world that often feels too problematic to find calm, finding solutions to the most pressing issues we have feels not only necessary but urgent. There is an all-out attack on reproductive rights. Healthcare for all Americans remains elusive. And climate change remains a defining crisis of our time.
For the world, the country, and particlualry for Black Americans, the effects of climate change have quickly become a matter of life and death. Last year a study found that racial-ethnic minorities in the United States are exposed to disproportionately high levels of ambient fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5), the largest environmental cause of human mortality. And as a Columbia Climate School report notes, climate change has made ozone pollution worse in many parts of the world. Tuesday’s CGI panel entitled, “The Climate Crises We’re Already In: How We Can Accelerate Adaptation to a Changing Climate” made the point that the nation faces an existential threat if action is not taken.
While Congress has found it challenging to pass any real legislation to combat the crisis, the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act did include provisions for climate justice. In addition to providing grants to help with home improvements, it also earmarked spending to improve the infrastructure needed for electric vehicles. “All of the investments in this bill will help the President reach his climate goals,” Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers told EBONY ahead of the bills signing. “It’s so important to our communities because many of our communities have very poor air pollution and also suffer from some of the most dire consequences from climate change.”
Though legislation has been tough to pass on a federal level, individual states have taken major steps. California Governor Gavin Newsom sat down for a fireside chat at CGI on the heels of signing a “sweeping set of laws” that aim to dramatically cut the state’s use of oil and gas. “We’re not interested in doubling down on stupid,” Gov. Newsom said at the signing ceremony. “We’re not interested in investing in the industries that have created the problems that we’re trying to mitigate… We’re moving in a completely new direction and I couldn’t be more proud and excited.”
Newsom’s forward-moving direction aligns with that of the Biden Administration’s Energy Department. U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm attended CGI as a panelist for the aforementioned Climate Crisis panel. During which she doubled down on her mission to address the effects of climate change and improve the nation’s energy infrastructure.
“To fight climate change, the Energy Department supports research and innovation that makes fossil energy technologies cleaner and less harmful to the people and the environment,” Granholm says of the DOE’s work. “We’re taking responsible steps to cut carbon pollution, develop domestic renewable energy production and win the global race for clean energy innovation.”