It goes without saying that 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, but especially Black communities across California. Our communities were disproportionately impacted by both the health and economic crises wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, we led the charge in an unprecedented social justice movement to fight systemic racism.
Yet in the face of these troubling events, we’ve not forgotten our commitment to helping save the planet from climate change. Starting with our communities on the frontline here in California, this spring and summer offer a chance for renewal and an opportunity to create positive change. The Golden State has set a goal to reduce our carbon pollution to 1990 levels by 2030, and our communities are at the forefront of that effort.
Sadly, the effects of climate change are real, and we cannot wait to address the cause or the impact. Air pollution, wildfires, drought, and heatwaves are direct threats to a person’s health and livelihood. Black communities unfortunately understand this all too well. In our communities, where we breathe the effects of climate change every day, it is critical that we reduce levels of carbon pollution to protect our environment, health, and financial futures.
In California, the three biggest climate change risks are increased temperatures, rising sea levels, and wildfires. Increased temperatures lead to more frequent and longer heat waves, which are killing Black Californians at twice the rate of any other group according to one study. The drier summers and higher levels of smog create a health hazard for all of us, but especially infants, children, and the elderly. With increasing temperatures, forests are becoming more and more dry, leading to more intense wildfires that release more carbon into the atmosphere. And experts predict that sea levels will continue to rise, creating flooding and erosion hazards for coastal communities.
But we are not looking back or letting fear take hold. Instead, we are asking all Californians to take charge. It’s as simple as starting in your homes. The time we spend at home each day is an opportunity to refine our energy saving habits to help reduce our state’s emissions and save money for our household budgets.
Changing small habits at home like remembering to switch off the lights when leaving a room, or unplugging devices when they aren’t in use can make a huge difference. You can adjust your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to save energy. Consider upgrading your appliances to Energy Star models, or perhaps conducting a do-it-yourself home energy audit—the U.S. Department of Energy website has a great checklist.
We can also take to our communities for climate change. We can spread the word to our friends and neighbors, in person (socially distanced, of course) or on social media. Energy Upgrade California offers resources and tips to make this happen.
Climate change educational initiatives, activism, and personal choices and behaviors can directly help to lessen the impact on our communities and save the planet. Energy efficiency programs support a healthier environment to live in, cheaper energy bills, and job opportunities in the clean energy sector.
Reducing our energy consumption means we’re doing our part to protect the delicate ecosystems and wildlife that exist in California. The mountains, forests, rivers, valleys, and beaches of California are like nowhere else in the world. While our state’s grids continue to transition to cleaner sources of power, we must keep a watchful eye on our energy use and urge others to do the same.
Keep the big picture in mind and take advantage of the new normal to reduce energy use and take comfort that we’re all in this together.
Edwin Lombard is the President/CEO of the California African American Chamber of Commerce and a community partner to Energy Upgrade California.