This letter, signed by leaders of the environmental justice movement in the U.S. and around the world, marks a significant broadening of the constituency involved in the climate change issue. We circulated it as part of the CorpWatch Climate Justice Initiative.
April 19, 2001
George W. Bush
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We are writing you today to express our profound concern with your new climate change policies with respect to their impacts on poor people and people of color in the United States and around the world.
It is our firmly held belief that climate change is not only an ecological, economic or political question, but it is a moral issue with profound ramifications for all of the inhabitants of this planet Earth. It is a question of environmental justice and human rights. It is also an issue of equity between nations.
Particularly hard hit will be low-lying countries like Bangladesh and small island states whose very existence is threatened. The poor here in the United States -- especially poor people of color -- will also bear the brunt of climate change. Your policies will only intensify those impacts.
Given its potentially profound ramifications, climate change must be tackled with serious and vigorous leadership and international cooperation rather than a misguided isolationist approach that protects a handful of powerful fossil fuel corporations.
The United States, whose four percent of the world's population generates one-quarter of all man made carbon dioxide -- the leading global warming gas -- must take the lead in reversing its role as the main contributor to this looming global crisis.
Certainly, your predecessor's climate change policies came up well short of the measures we believe are necessary to address the problem. But your administration's response so far-your failure to follow through on campaign promises to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and your abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol-borders on nothing short of gross global negligence.
Your negation of the increasingly irrefutable scientific evidence on climate change is distressing. It is no longer a question of whether climate change will occur, but rather of how bad it will be. It is no longer a question of whether sea levels will rise, but rather of how many coastlines, people, communities, and entire island nations will be submerged.
Global warming is starting to make itself felt. The 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 was the warmest year on record. The icecap atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa is melting away and will completely disappear in less than 15 years. It is an abuse of power to turn your back on this, the most serious environmental issue ever to confront humanity.
If it is not halted, climate change will probably result in increased frequency and severity of storms, floods and drought. And it will cause the spread of diseases, such as malaria. It will increase hunger and bring about displacement and mass migrations of people with ensuing social conflict.
Mr. President, you claim that you don't want to harm the American consumer, yet you're setting us all up to pay a huge price in the future. This is especially true for the poor. Earlier this year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that the impacts of global warming "are expected to fall disproportionately on the poor."
People who are highly dependent on farming, fishing or forestry, especially indigenous people, are most likely to see their livelihoods destroyed by climate change. Meanwhile, the urban poor-mostly people of color in the U.S. -- will be most vulnerable to climate-change related heat waves, diseases and respiratory ailments.
Many of us come from or work with communities that are already directly affected by the oil industry. These are communities and workers that are suffering the social and environmental effects of oil exploration, production, transportation, refining, distribution and combustion. These communities are also some of those who will be hardest hit by climate change -- whether they are in Nigeria's Niger Delta, in Arctic Village Alaska, or in Louisiana's "cancer alley." These communities face a "double whammy" -- suffering oil's acute toxic impacts first and then its long-term effects in the form of the harsh hand of global warming.
Rather than cater to the socially and ecologically destructive oil industry Mr. President, you should severely curb U.S. carbon emissions and support the Kyoto Protocol. At home you should also support a just transition for fossil fuel industry workers and fenceline communities while investing the United States' resources in energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, such as solar, wind and biomass.
Mr. President, we urge you to reconsider your position on climate change before the United States becomes universally known as an environmental rogue state, and you go down in history as G.W. Bush, the Global Warming President.
Nnimmo Bassey, Oilwatch Africa
Chee Yoke Ling, Third World Network, Malaysia
Oronto Douglas, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria
Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network, U.S.
Sarah James, Gwich'in Steering Committee, U.S.
Esperanza Martinez, Oilwatch International, Ecuador
Richard Moore, Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, U.S.
Ricardo Navarro, CESTA/Friends of the Earth, El Salvador
S. Bobby Peek, groundWork, South Africa
Amit Srivastava/Joshua Karliner, CorpWatch, U.S.
Connie Tucker, Southern Organizing Committee for Economic and Social Justice, U.S.
Dr. Owens Wiwa, African Environmental and Human Development Agency, Nigeria
Ricardo Carrere, World Rainforest Movement, Uruguay
Cc: Christie Todd Whitman, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
If you would like to add your organization to the list of endorsers, please send the name of your group, contact person, city and country where the organization is located to firstname.lastname@example.org. At this time we are asking, organizations only, not individuals, to sign on. Thank you for your support.