For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.
Even this year, with interest in the issue at an all-time high, the candidates the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed — like Amy McGrath, who eked out a victory in Kentucky's Senate primary, and former-Governor John Hickenlooper, who handily won Colorado's — have evinced skepticism about the Green New Deal, a resolution pending in Congress to put trillions of dollars into a transition to renewable energy plus job-training for a new clean economy.
On June 4, however, when the Democratic National Committee's Environment and Climate Crisis Council released a rigorous set of proposals for the party's 2020 platform, it offered climate voters some hope. The 14-page document's solutions for the warming planet included investment in communities that suffer every day with the consequences of industrial waste, shoring up public health services and making sure everyone has enough to eat. It also advises changing the structure of the society that allows police to kill unarmed black people with relative impunity.
"There's just no way to address the climate crisis without taking on systemic racism," says Michelle Deatrick, chair of the council. "They're intertwined and integrally related."
But proposals are not a platform; they don't represent any official statement of purpose from the DNC on climate or anything else. The climate council, founded in August 2019 after party members failed to persuade Chairman Tom Perez to hold a climate debate, is but one of three groups involved in crafting the party's final climate policies. Another, the eight-member Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force, will offer recommendations from the likes of New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and environmental justice leader Catherine Coleman Flowers. Then it's yet another committee that will draw up the actual climate platform with former Vice President Joe Biden, the party's presumptive nominee.
On its face, that process looks reasonable: A task force and a council inclined to progressive ideals will push the ultimate deciders to take bigger steps toward a zero-carbon future. The problem, Deatrick says, is that once the platform has been agreed upon by that final, 15-member committee, it rarely changes when it goes before the full committee for approval.
"It's mostly a formal vote," she says. The state and local officials in the DNC, despite the crucial knowledge they bring from their jurisdictions, "historically have had no impact on the final product." But this year, with its great convergence of catastrophes that have defined the spring and summer of 2020, has to be different. "We need to have an inclusive and transparent process around the creation of the platform," Deatrick says. "This is a great opportunity for Democrats to show that we are the party of listening and deep considerations of ideas."
Among those ideas is that none of the problems we're facing can be disentangled from the others. "The nature of environmental problems is bound up in the history of race in America," says Adrien Salazar, senior campaign strategist for climate equity with the social-justice think tank Dēmos. "The only way that [polluting] industries have been viable at all is because there are communities where they can pollute, places that have ended up being the sacrifice zones for the rest of America."
Racial inequality, he says, "undergirds the very fabric of American society."
"You can't have climate change without sacrifice zones," wrote Hop Hopkins, director of strategic partnerships for the Sierra Club, in a recent essay. "And you can't have sacrifice zones without disposable people, and you can't have disposable people without racism."
Robert Bullard, the author and researcher often called "the father of the environmental justice movement," has found that toxic hot spots across the U.S., from Louisiana's "Cancer Alley" to the refinery rows of Texas, align closely with Jim Crow housing segregation and other discriminatory zoning practices. "America is segregated," he says, "and so is pollution."
The injustice bleeds into public health and disease transmission: The COVID-19 virus travels, scientists hypothesize, on the sooty particles that blight communities on the front lines of industrial pollution. Those same places emit the greenhouse gases warming the atmosphere. In other words, it's not just pre-existing conditions causing the disease to hit harder in black communities. It's literally the air people breathe.
There are people tasked with air-quality regulation who argue that the common air contaminants that make people sick – the ground-level ozone that irritates lung tissue, the particulate matter that triggers cancer – belong to a different category than the greenhouse gases that trap the earth's heat. Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president of environmental justice, climate and community revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation, remembers hearing as much during the 24 years he spent at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "I've had these conversations with some of the best scientists in the world," he says. "And what I know is that it is impossible, impossible, to hit the numbers that we need to hit to win on climate change if you're not focused on environmental justice."
Fossil-fuel infrastructure, for instance, blights "lower-wealth communities," Santiago Ali says. "So if you focus on that, you're going to begin to minimize the impacts of oil and gas." Pipelines cut through indigenous land in the Midwest and end up on Louisiana's Gulf Coast. "If you stop those pipelines, you stop the climate-killing export of oil."
Cars and trucks drive global warming, too, and their proliferation is made possible by "policies of running highways through certain communities, moving wealth into certain communities and dropping off pollution in lower-wealth communities along the way." Writer Peter Simek has noted that you can find the locations of Dallas' Freedmen's Towns — communities established by emancipated slaves during and after the Civil War — by following the highways engineers built on top of them. "Some of the most powerful planners in America were forthright about their intention to use their power as transportation engineers to rewire a society built on racial and economic segregation," he wrote.
If you stop dehumanizing people in order to pollute, you stop degrading the environment, Santiago Ali says. If you don't, we literally won't survive. "There's no way of pulling climate out and saying, 'We're going to win on this but not focus on any of these other issues," he says. "That's just bad arithmetic."
Whether the platform committee does better math depends on how well it responds to outside pressure: The group is diverse, but not necessarily progressive. (Journalist Emily Atkin in her newsletter Heated has broken the group down in a useful spreadsheet.) Fear surrounds this election — fear that pushing too hard on climate and racial injustice both will alienate white voters of the Rust Belt; fear that people will equate an expensive clean energy transition with the loss of jobs in oil and gas. Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mineworkers Union, told Reuters that the circulation of the climate council's policy recommendations "has already cost Democrats potential votes in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan."
Deatrick, who in addition to her environmental work is a longtime union supporter from Michigan, isn't worried. "We have to walk the talk," she says. "We have to make sure that we commit to policies that support those workers, replace pensions, provide health care." What she's learned on three months of listening tours around the country is that people are less afraid of economic transitions than they are of the chaos a changing climate will bring.
"We have a real opportunity to reinvigorate the part of the electorate – which is the vast majority of Democrats and Independents as well – who rate the climate crisis among their top priorities," Deatrick says, along with health care and racial inequality. She wants to make sure that when the draft of the climate platform is drawn up, those people are heard. The DNC "has not laid out what that listening process will be," she says. "And we don't have much time left."
This story originally appeared in Capital & Main and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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From lighting up the night when you return home to boosting security, installing solar flood lights is a great way to invest in your home’s functionality and safety. Solar flood lights harness their energy from the sun and don’t require wiring or electrical work, making installation a breeze even for renters. And thanks to waterproof designs and efficient LEDs, they offer a fix-it-and-forget solution to myriad lighting predicaments.
In this article, we’ll recommend four of the best LED solar flood lights and motion-detector lights on the market today.
Best Solar Flood Lights: Our Recommendations
- Best Overall: AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights
- Best Light Bar: TBI Pro Super-Bright Outdoor Solar Lights
- Best Compact Lights: Kolpop Solar Security Lights
- Best Street-Style Light: RuoKid Solar Street Lights
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
Full Reviews of Our Top Picks
Best Overall: AmeriTop Motion-Sensor Lights
This high-quality motion-sensing solar flood light from AmeriTop boasts super-bright LEDs for top-notch security. Highly efficient solar panels and LEDs mean lighting whenever and wherever it’s needed, and a 26-foot motion-sensing radius ensures nothing can get close to your house without getting some serious time in the limelight.
- 800-lumen output
- 20% efficient poly solar panels
- 26-foot radius motion sensor
- Wide 270° lighting area
- Automatic on and off
- Adjustable light head and sensor
- IP65 waterproof rating
- Fixed solar panels
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 18,000 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: "It was exactly what I was looking for. They are easy to install, just the right size and project a lot of light. Love that it is solar.” — Joshua via Amazon
Why Buy: The AmeriTop triple-head outdoor flood light is a robust solution for exterior lighting needs, featuring high-intensity LED bulbs, a quick charge time, a wide flood angle and motion-sensing areas, and IP65 waterproofing. Short of the sun itself, there’s no better solar security floodlight for your home.
Best Light Bar: TBI Pro Super-Bright Outdoor Solar Lights
The TBI Pro ultra-bright solar motion sensor flood light can illuminate up to 1,600 square feet, making it perfect for walls, posts, paths and gardens. Each light fixture casts a searing 2,500-lumen ocean of light, adding security and comfort to any exterior. This model has three lighting modes, so if you don’t need to burn a hole in the dark, you can select a different mode to set a lighter ambiance. From outdoor security to entertaining, these are a great choice.
- 2,500-lumen output
- 1,600-square-foot lighting area
- Super-wide 280° lighting angle
- Motion-detection up to 40 feet
- 12-hour runtime with 4,400 mAh battery
- Three lighting modes
- Automatic on and off
- IP65 waterproof rating
- Fixed solar panels
- Two units per purchase
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 1,300 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “Wow! These things are really bright! Much brighter than we had anticipated. The motion sensor device is neither too sensitive or not sensitive enough — it's just right.” — Light-Zone via Amazon
Why Buy: These high-power solar flood lights prove great things can come in small, affordable packages. You get two super-bright 2,500-lumen bar lights with three brightness settings, a wide lighting angle and superior motion sensitivity reach. And at under $65, they’re perhaps the best value you can buy.
Best Compact Lights: Kolpop Solar Security Lights
Small but tremendous, Kolpop’s Solar Security Lights package offers six 800-lumen solar-powered security lights, each capable of illuminating over 320 square feet. Three brightness settings give you the power to adjust lighting to fit the occasion, from a chill get-together to all-night security.
- 600-lumen output
- 120° motion detection area with 16-foot range
- 8- to 10-hour runtime
- 8- to 10-hour charge time in full sunlight
- 1,800 mAh battery
- Three lighting modes
- IP65 waterproof rating
- Fixed solar panel
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 4,000 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “I love these lights and have bought two packages for our country home … I installed these four months ago and am totally satisfied so far. They don't last as long on overcast days, but that's to be expected.” — Donald via Amazon
Why Buy: Six feature-packed solar security flood lights at an amazing price. These suffer a bit on charge time, output and motion/lighting angles, but their affordability and modularity mean you can install them anywhere you so desire. They’re a great buy for folks who want compact solar security wall lights.
Best Street-Style Light: RuoKid Solar Street Lights
There are several reasons to abandon the traditional flood light style, and RuoKid’s street-style solar flood lights encompass them all. Exceptional brightness, a cool urban design, and an adjustable solar panel and light head make these perfect for brightening dark driveways, patios, front door entryways and more.
- 1,500-lumen output
- Illuminates 970 square feet
- Aluminum alloy housing and mounting hardware
- 4 to 6 hours in full sunlight for full charge
- 8-hour runtime
- 5-year warranty
- IP67 waterproof rating
- Remote controlled
- Adjustable solar panel
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 1,100 Amazon ratings
Standout Review: “This light stays on from dusk until dawn with full sun the day before. I installed it as a security light. I live in a rural area with no street lights, and it works perfectly compared to other lights I have purchased..” — Yardman11236 via Amazon
Why Buy: RuoKid designs its products for use on the street, so they’re made to withstand years of heavy-duty service. This awesome 1,500-lumen street-style solar flood light combines power, capacity, durability and function into an attractive, modern design.
How to Choose the Best Solar-Powered Flood Lights
A single doorway doesn’t need 2,500 lumens, nor is a single solar-powered flood light sufficient for lighting up a driveway. Before choosing the best solar-powered flood light, consider the following factors:
- Brightness: In general, brighter is better, but if you only need to light a small area, you might not have to fork over the extra cash for a higher-output unit. If you want to cover a large area with a single bright light, go for at least 1,600 lumens. Or, install multiple lights with a smaller output.
- Features: Today’s solar-powered flood lights are ripe with features. Most have multiple brightness settings and weatherproofing as standard features, but consider other important elements such as remote controls, adjustable/modular solar panels, tilt and pan adjustments for lights and sensors, and metal constructions. As always, the more features, the higher the price, but the investment will be worth it.
- Durability: All of our picks are waterproof, but you may want a light that’s truly built to last. The RuoKid Solar Street Light has an all-metal design and is made to take a beating. Look for weatherproof lights that will hold up through multiple seasons.
- Ease of installation: Compared to their wired counterparts, solar-powered flood lights are a breeze to install. Some require more assembly and mounting than others, so if you’re not on friendly terms with your toolbox, pick a solar flood light that requires little more than a screw to install.
Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Flood Lights
Do solar flood lights really work?
As long as they have consistent daylight for at least a few hours, solar flood lights work exceptionally well. They utilize the same sensor technology as their wired counterparts but require no wiring and have an overall simpler installation thanks to their built-in solar panels.
What is the brightest solar LED flood light?
TBI Pro Super-Bright Outdoor Solar Lights have an impressive 2,500-lumen output. These are some of the best solar flood lights if brightness is your top priority.
How long do solar-powered flood lights last?
As far as runtime, most solar flood lights provide uninterrupted lighting for 8 to 12 hours. Assuming a solar light has no defects and is installed and used as intended, a solar flood light battery will last 3 to 4 years before needing replacement. Other components of a solar flood light can last up to a decade or more.
What is the most powerful solar security light?
TBI Pro Super-Bright Outdoor Solar Lights are the most powerful solar LED security lights on our list.
Christian Yonkers is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and outdoor junkie obsessed with the intersectionality between people and planet. He partners with brands and organizations with social and environmental impact at their core, assisting them in telling stories that change the world.