Numerous recent studies have demonstrated that Latinos in the United States care deeply about the environment and the effects of climate change. A 2015 poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University, and Resources for the Future, for example, found that Latinos disproportionately feel personally affected by global warming and support national regulation to curb its effects. Another poll conducted by GreenLatinos, Earthjustice, and Latino Decisions similarly demonstrates broad Latino support for environmental conservation and concern for the health impacts associated with climate change. In fact, registered Latino voters ranked several environmental concerns as highly as they ranked immigration reform.
These findings contradict several stereotypes about Latinos, their political beliefs, and concern for the environment. The first is that Latinos are a single-issue demographic solely concerned with immigration reform. Poll results clearly demonstrate that this is not the case. The second is that concern for the environment is a privilege reserved for “affluent, white liberals.” But as Gabriel Sanchez, research director of Latino Decisions, notes, “Latinos are actually among the most concerned about the environment, particularly global warming.”
This paper explores the causes of such strong Latino support for environmental protection and government action to control climate change. I will focus primarily on three major factors, namely local exposure to pollutants, the effects of climate change and pollution on migrant farmworkers, and impact of global warming on Latin American nations. I will also briefly address the influence of Pope Francis, the first Latino pope, and his strong calls for environmental conservation and climate justice. Lastly, I will examine the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) put forth by Mexico and Brazil in preparation for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in order to assess two major Latin American nations’ strategies for combating climate change. I will conclude by briefly discussing the significance of Latino perspectives on climate and the environment moving forward and offer several policy recommendations to help address the disproportionate impact of greenhouse gas emissions on Latino communities.
Photo Boats in Pearl Lagoon Nicaragua 2016 Sam García