At a recent congressional hearing, in response to accusations that climate change and the solutions proposed in the Green New Deal are issues for "rich liberals from ... California," U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) reminded us that climate change is "not an elitist issue; this is a quality of life issue." The New York congresswoman may be considered a polarizing figure to some, but she is 100 percent right about this—climate change is affecting all communities, not just "elite" enclaves.
While California remains a climate leader with its historic greenhouse gas emission policies, 100 percent renewable energy law, and zero-emission vehicle goals, it is essential that environmental equity be prioritized in our state policies. While we all may contribute to poor air quality, the impact is not shared equally. Disadvantaged communities throughout the state have suffered the most.
A state report by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment reminds us that our largest climate polluters are located disproportionately in communities of color and along with the greenhouse gases they emit come toxic air contaminants that clog our lungs, devastate public health, and impair our quality of life.
This May as we celebrate Clean Air Month, we have the opportunity to educate the public about the correlation between clean air and respiratory health. We can also acknowledge the enormous, positive impact that the 1970 Clean Air Act has had on the way people think about the environment—both locally and globally.
I was recently appointed to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state agency primarily responsible for protecting the public from the harmful effects of air pollution. Created by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1967, the board is committed to a unified, statewide approach to reducing and eliminating the sources of air pollution in the state. The Community Air Protection Program, implemented by CARB, is a first-of-its-kind effort to improve air quality in communities that face the worst impacts of air pollution by working with local pollution control agencies and community-based organizations.
Clean air is essential to every Californian's health, and during Clean Air Month I hope you will think of ways you can help improve our air quality so we can all breathe clean air throughout the year.
State Sen. Bill Monning