U.S. blacks face harsher climate change impact

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American blacks are likely to suffer disproportionately from climate change and they are willing to pay to combat it, a commission aimed at raising awareness about global warming said on Tuesday.

“There is a fierce urgency regarding climate change effects on the African-American community,” said Ralph Everett, the co-chair of the Commission to Engage African-Americans on Climate Change said. “People need to understand what is at stake -- our very health and well-being.”

Blacks are more than twice as likely as whites to live in cities where the so-called heat island effect is expected to make temperature increases more severe, the newly formed group said at a briefing.

More blacks also will be “fuel poor” as energy demand rises due to higher air-conditioning loads, population growth and urbanization, commission said.

In a survey of 750 U.S. black adults released by the commission, 81 percent said the U.S. government should take strong action to deal with global warming, and seven in 10 said it was very important for the 2008 presidential candidates to do something about it.

A solid majority, 64 percent, of those surveyed by telephone between June 20 and July 3 said they would be willing to pay an additional $10 a month to fight global warming. Twenty-eight percent were willing to pay an added $25 a month and only 14 percent were willing to pay an extra $50.

As expected, poorer respondents were willing to pay less, said David Bositis, who supervised the survey for the non-profit Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which launched the commission’s effort.

When asked an open-ended question about what they considered to be the most important problem facing the United States, 5 percent of respondents answered global warming.

This has never been mentioned before as the top problem by any black respondents in surveys in 2000, 2004 and 2007. In this survey, 42 percent listed the economy as the most important problem, followed by 17 percent answering energy.

The 5 percent who considered global warming paramount compared with 8 percent who said the Iraq war and 3 percent who answered education. Bositis said most U.S. surveys and polls have such a small number of black participants that it is difficult to separate out black attitudes.

The commission aims to draw African-Americans into the climate change debate and to involve the black community in economic opportunities of the green economy.

Editing by Bill Trott