The Impact of Climate Change on Communities of Color

In a photograph, a young Black girl wearing a red hat and yellow blouse holds an inhaler up to her lips

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “10 of the warmest years on record have occurred since 2005” and “2020 was the second warmest year on record.” Climate change is an existential threat facing the whole world, but it’s important to recognize how Black and brown communities are disproportionately impacted by the direct negative effects of it.

People of color are more likely to live in areas with polluted air and experience premature death due to environmental causes. The Atlantic reports that “more than half of all people who live close to hazardous waste are people of color.” Beginning in 2019, New York City conducted an environmental justice study which concluded that health, physical environment and economic outlook “are intrinsically linked to each other and have to be addressed systematically in order to improve people’s lives.”

To address the issue of climate’s impact on disadvantaged communities, the Biden administration has put its focus on the Justice40 initiative — a program designed to “ensure that at least 40% of federal climate investments go directly to frontline communities most affected by poverty and pollution.” A report developed by Justice40 and the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation outlines the urgent need at this time for the federal government to address climate change with consideration of systemic racism. According to the report, the implementation of the Justice40 initiative should “correct a long history of uneven resources and benefits of federal funding in communities of color and low-income areas.”

Robert F. Smith’s Commitment to Combating Climate Change and Racial Injustice

Robert F. Smith, the Founder, CEO and Chairman of Vista Equity Partners, understands the urgency of addressing climate change and its connection to racial equity. In celebration of the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement in 2021, Smith wrote on Twitter, “Climate change is an existential crisis that disproportionately impacts minority communities. At Vista, we are committed to carbon neutrality & scaling positive impact via our investments. This action will help preserve our planet for future generations.”

In June 2021, Vista announced a partnership with Clearloop, a renewable energy accelerator, as part of the firm’s ongoing work to strengthen its environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies. The collaboration is intended to “to offset its 2020 carbon footprint and help increase clean energy sources in Jackson, Tennessee,” where nearly half of the city’s population identifies as African American.

“We’re proud to partner with Clearloop to invest in carbon neutrality in ways that improve racial equity,” Smith stated about the partnership. “The […] events of 2020 made clear there are persistent, structural challenges facing African Americans, including in the southeast. All communities simultaneously face the existential risks of climate change. This groundbreaking project will address both issues, deploying solar energy into a particularly disadvantaged African American community and creating local jobs.”

Learn how business leaders and corporations can help find solutions to address climate change.