Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks during a Senate Democrats' Special Committee on the Climate Crisis on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP
Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Atlanta Mayor Bottoms addresses Senate committee on climate change

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms addressed a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday about the city’s efforts to combat climate change.

Bottoms was on a panel of five mayors who testified at the first-ever meeting of the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis.

The hearing was intended to showcase large cities’ strategies to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to new challenges stemming from climate change. The mayors also discussed how the federal government can help their cities.

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Bottoms talked about several projects in Atlanta that she sees as key to combating climate change — now and in the future. Among them: the city’s new reservoir and the new 280-acre park that Bottoms said will help “mitigate historic flood problems” in Northwest Atlanta.

Bottoms’ remarks also focused on the impact that climate change has on Atlanta’s most vulnerable populations.

One of the problems that come with rising temperatures is an increase in ground-level ozone, which aggravates asthma symptoms. This disproportionately affects African-Americans, who are three times more likely to be hospitalized and die because of asthma compared to white people, the mayor said.

“We see an average of 26,000 emergency room visits for asthma and wheezing in Atlanta every year and climate change will only make it worse,” Bottoms said at the hearing, noting her own four children suffer from asthma.

Bottoms was the only mayor of a Southern city, and the only female mayor to testify at the hearing.

She joined Mayor Kirk Cardwell of Honolulu, Hawaii; Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minnesota; Mayor William Peduto of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland, Oregon.

Bottoms also noted the impact climate change will have on power bills. Low-income Atlanta residents already have the third-highest energy burden in the nation, and higher temperatures will only worsen that, Bottoms said.

Bottoms said Atlanta would benefit from an expansion of the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. The program, run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides grants to low-income people to help with the cost of energy bills.

“No city can address these issues alone,” Bottoms said. “Partnerships with the federal government are necessary and urgent.”

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