Black and Latino people in the US are most vulnerable to the ravages of the climate crisis, according to a new report.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states the most severe harms from climate change fall disproportionately on communities that are least able to prepare for and recover from heatwaves, poor air quality, flooding, and other impacts.
Climate Change and Social Vulnerability in the United States: A Focus on Six Impact Sectors looks at how projected climate change impacts will be distributed across the American public.
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said: “The impacts of climate change that we are feeling today, from extreme heat to flooding to severe storms, are expected to get worse, and people least able to prepare and cope are disproportionately exposed.
“This report punctuates the urgency of equitable action on climate change. With this level of science and data, we can more effectively centre EPA’s mission on achieving environmental justice for all.”
EPA’s report shows the degree to which four socially vulnerable populations — defined based on income, educational attainment, race and ethnicity, and age — may be more exposed to the highest impacts of climate change.
It quantifies six types of impacts, including those to health from changes in air quality and extreme temperature, disruptions to weather-exposed workers, and flooding threats to property.
One key finding is that Black and African American individuals are projected to face higher impacts of climate change for all six impacts, compared to all other demographic groups.
For example, with 2°C of global warming, Black and African American individuals are 34% more likely to currently live in areas with the highest projected increases in childhood asthma diagnoses and 40% more likely to currently live in areas with the highest projected increases in extreme temperature-related deaths.
The report also found Hispanics and Latinos have high participation in weather-exposed industries, such as construction and agriculture, which are especially vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures.
With 2°C of global warming, Hispanic and Latino individuals are 43% more likely to currently live in areas with the highest projected reductions in labour hours due to extreme temperatures and 50% more likely to currently live in areas with the highest estimated increases in traffic delays caused by increases in coastal flooding.