December 4, 2016
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Latinos, African Americans Willing To Pay More To Slow Climate Change


New America Media, News Report, Khalil Abdullah

Latino and African-American communities in the United States increasingly share similar views on the negative impact of climate change and call for government support for a green economy, according to two recently released polls.

Polls say these results may be factors determining which candidates get these ethnic votes in the mid-term November elections.

Among Nevada’s Latinos, for example, 93 percent of Republicans said, “take action now” on climate change, a higher rate even than the state’s Latino independents (89 percent) and Democrats (88 percent). In Florida, 80 percent of Latino voters said the issue of climate change would affect their decision of who to vote for in the U.S. Senate race. In Nevada and Colorado, 67 and 58 percent, respectively, made the same assertion.

The Latino poll was conducted by the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC) on the views of Latino voters in Colorado, Florida, and Nevada; the poll on African-American voters in Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, and South Carolina was conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. 

While jobs and the economy are still leading concerns among the two ethnic groups, when asked what came closest to their view about whether “efforts to reduce global warming by switching to clean energy … will create new American jobs, “ 64 percent of Colorado’s Latino voters, 66 percent of Florida’s, and 72 percent of Nevada’s agreed.

David Bositis, the Joint Center’s veteran pollster on African-American voting patterns, said that while the economy is still the top issue for black voters, climate change is in importance.

Bositis said the African Americans surveyed – in Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, and South Carolina -- tend to be more conservative and less financially well off than their counterparts in more affluent states. As a result, Bositis said the most important finding was the stated willingness to pay higher electric utility bills if electricity generators had to charge more for cleaner but more expensive fuels or technologies that would ameliorate global warming. 

Those with higher incomes were willing to pay more, yet the data were remarkably strong even among low-income African Americans surveyed. “Solid majorities in all four states – between 55 percent in South Carolina and 64 percent in Indiana – are willing to pay an additional ten dollars a month to fight global warming,” he said.

The survey of Latinos also showed their willingness to pay more.

Latinos also showed a heightened awareness linking droughts and extreme weather events with climate change.

Frank Stewart, a member of the Joint Center’s Commission to Engage African Americans on Climate Change and president of the American Association of Blacks in Energy, an organization representing 1,800 senior executives in the energy business, said the debate among African American and Latino constituencies about whether climate change is real is all but over. “We’re no longer looking at the science,” Stewart said. At issue, he argued, is for communities to become more knowledgeable about climate change in order to make informed decisions about the transformations that will be necessary in the energy field.

The economic cost of facing climate change is not the sole rationale for demanding immediate action. “There is a very, very clear link between our climate and our health,” said Dr. George Benjamin, executive director, American Public Health Commission and also a member of the Joint Center’s Commission. He said the effects of climate change can have disproportionate adverse health consequences for African Americans and Latinos who have higher rates of asthma and other medical conditions.

Benjamin also cited the link between income status and health, mentioning a 1995 Chicago heat wave that left 600 people dead. Many of the dead were low-income African-American elderly, some of whom did not turn on their air conditioning for fear of being unable to pay a higher bill. Today, Benjamin said 22 percent of Latinos live below the poverty level. Four percent don’t have health insurance, making them and other low-income Americans less able to financially deal with the effects of toxic ecologies that can lead to “tragedy happening in our urban settings.”

While financial reform proposals have ascended to the media limelight since the passage of healthcare reform legislation, the on-going Congressional debate over the best mechanisms -- like cap and trade -- to lower carbon emissions, may yet affect November’s races.

Rafael Fantauzzi, vice-chair of NLCC and president of the National Puerto Rican Coalition, Inc., said pollsters of the Latino voters already knew that immigration was critically important to that community in determining support for November’s political candidates, so views on that topic were not sought. 

However, he said the intersection of today’s leading issues can play out at the ballot box. For instance, he said that 48.5 percent of Puerto Ricans are living below the poverty line and, due to the lack of jobs on the island, many are migrating to Florida, New York, Connecticut, or Illinois. Because they are American citizens, they can vote in those states, an impact he said was already seen in the 2008 election when Puerto Rican voters in and around Orlando tipped Florida for President Barack Obama. “Latinos are involved in every issue that affects them,” Fantauzzi said, and, on climate change, “they definitely want to see something done.” 
 
 




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