Why a Latina Climate Scientist Was Invited to the State of the Union Address

Nicole Hernandez Hammer

Nicole Hernandez Hammer

Climate change was a major theme of President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Just how serious is the administration about climate issues? One of the First Lady’s special guests was climate scientist Nicole Hernandez Hammer, a Guatemalan immigrant and current resident of Florida who specializes in sea level rise.
As this Newsweek article explains, Hammer has seen firsthand how climate change disproportionately impacts Latinos in South Florida and other urban coastal areas. She is now an advocate for carbon regulation and is working with Moms Clean Air Force to educate parents on the health impacts of climate change.
Our research has found that Hispanic/Latino, African, and Asian Americans are more concerned about climate change than the rest of the American population. Hispanic/Latinos may be feeling the effects most of all, because they’re overrepresented in states like Florida and California that are experiencing some of the most noticeable climate change impacts. This helps explain why this group is more likely than any other to believe climate change exists and that it’s an urgent problem.
Hispanic/Latinos are also more optimistic about this issue than most Americans – 66 percent believe that climate change can be solved. The best way to engage them is to focus on solutions and lead with the benefits that matter to them most – keeping food costs and energy bills low, and preserving nature and the future of farming.
For more tips on how to connect with Hispanic Hispanic/Latino, African, and Asian Americans on climate solutions, download our report, America Climate Values 2014: Insights by Racial and Ethnic Groups.
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Meet the Latina Climate Scientist Michelle Obama Invited to the State of the Union Address

Zoë Schlanger, contributor to Newsweek
While first lady Michelle Obama watches President Obama deliver the State of the Union address Tuesday night, seated beside her will be Nicole Hernandez Hammer, a climate change researcher with deep roots in environmental justice advocacy. Hernandez Hammer is also the mother of a 7-year-old son and says she worries about what climate change will mean for her son’s adulthood. Her home state of Florida, she says, will be a very different place in the coming decades.
“I got a call last week and it was an incredible surprise. I think I was chosen because I echo some of the values that the president has identified as important, mainly climate change,” she said. “And as a mom, I’m particularly aware of the impacts that it will have on my son’s future. Climate change is a moral issue.”
Her research focuses on the effects of rising sea level on urban areas and how it may disproportionately impact Latino communities in flood-prone places like Miami. Hernandez Hammer is a Guatemalan immigrant with Cuban heritage. In 1992, she learned firsthand the toll extreme weather events can take on those communities, when Hurricane Andrew ripped through the Florida coast and destroyed her home. “Whatever we can do to make our communities resilient we need to be doing,” she says.
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Image Credit: Moms Clean Air Force

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