The climate will remain a bedrock issue for all political candidates going forward. It will also be at the forefront of many discussions when everything from jobs to the future of this planet are top mind. How can Atlantans, particularly Black Atlantans, do a better job of being informed about the climate? Well, it can’t hurt to ask an expert on such things.

White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi was in Atlanta recently and took time to talk to The Atlanta Voice and answer a few questions about climate change and how we can better understand it.

The Atlanta Voice: Mr. Zaidi, my first question is both simple and yet complex. How can we do a better job of staying informed about the climate?

Ali Zaidi: Here are three things. The first is I think we have to help people understand how dramatic the impacts are on their day to day lives. We often think about climate change as this far off thing. I think we need more folks helping people understand how dramatic and transformational it is in people’s lives right now. Helping connect the dots, not just to environmental issues, but to public health matters.

AV: A good example of that could be heat. Am I right?

AZ: The United States had a racist housing policy, redlining. The communities that were historically redlined are literally hotter today because there’s more pavement and fewer trees. So as climate change happens those communities are impacted disproportionately. Folks have to understand that context as they hear us talk about things like President Biden’s historic push to plant trees in those communities to improve their resistance to the heat.

AV: There are numerous opportunities for the overall economy tied to climate change as well. What are some of those that Atlantans should be better educated on?

AZ: Today our Department of Energy is putting out a jobs report in the clean energy space that shows that we have created 300,000 jobs just in the last year in the energy sector. The energy sector is booming. I don’t think folks understand, green jobs are blue collar jobs. You don’t need a four-year degree to tap into the economic opportunity represented by the clean energy boom.

AV: Can you give me an example of the kind of jobs you are speaking of in order to better clarify your point?

AZ: These are jobs that electricians are doing, they’re going to help us rewire the country. These are the jobs that pipe fitters and plumbers are doing that will help us do the critical infrastructure that will help us harness the opportunity from things like clean hydrogen. There are jobs in this opportunity and we have to make people understand that they can get those jobs.

AV: Is there something everyday people can do to have a positive effect on the climate?

AZ: This is something that everybody can take advantage of and here’s what that looks like. When you’re swapping out your HVAC system, we now have rebates and tax incentives to knock the price of that down 30%, maybe 50% or more depending on your income level. People have more choices today than ever before to cut their costs.

You can make a difference in the choices that you make. For a long time we’ve asked people to pay a premium to go green, but now you don’t have to pay a premium. Now you don’t have to pay a premium, you’re actually going to save money by going green.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...