Report Cites "Climate Gap" Harm to Poor, Minorities
Occidental College geology professor James L. Sadd is the co-author of a new report that details how climate change disproportionately harms the poor and minorities in the United States and proposes a range of solutions to mitigate the problem.
"The Climate Gap: Inequalities in How Climate Change Hurts Americans and How to Close the Gap" shows how climate-change factors such as increased air pollution, job loss, and heat wave-related mortality will affect low-income Americans of color more than their white, middle-class counterparts.
For instance, African-Americans in Los Angeles are nearly twice as likely to die from a heat wave compared with other Los Angeles residents. That's not surprising, Sadd and his co-authors say, as low-income neighborhoods are especially vulnerable to higher temperatures from lack of tree cover, grass and soil to absorb the heat. Low-income families and people of color also are less likely to have air conditioning.
"Most Americans now concur that climate change is real, and could pose devastating consequences for our nation and our children," Sadd said. "Our work reveals that an equally real and urgent problem is the 'climate gap,' the often hidden and unequal impact climate change will have on people of color and the poor in the United States."
"While past research has shown how climate change will disproportionately hurt people in developing nations, this report is an analysis of available data that explores the disparities in the domestic impact of climate change and the abilities of different groups within U.S. borders to adapt to its effects. This report includes an analysis of the global warming legislation moving through Congress, finds some encouraging elements in the bill, but concludes that more should be done to close the climate gap."
Climate change also will increase the cost of basic necessities such as water, food, and electricity, the report predicts. That's more bad news for low-income families, who already spend a bigger proportion of their income on these household needs than higher-income families. Climate change is expected to drastically cut jobs or cause major employment shifts in agriculture and other fields that employ poor people of color. The study suggests that changing weather and precipitation patterns due to climate change will make the job market for seasonal agricultural workers -- 77 percent of whom are Latino and poor -- more unstable.
Among the report's recommendations to narrow the climate gap are:
- Using new mapping technologies to identify vulnerable neighborhoods
- Choosing an auction or fee-based system for carbon-emission credits that would generate revenue and help poor families afford the higher costs of water, food, and electricity
- Seizing the opportunity to cut greenhouse gases from sources that also cause toxic air pollution in neighborhoods with the worst air quality
- Training people most likely to lose their current job because of climate change for jobs in the new economy
- Focusing extreme weather education and intervention efforts in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color
The study was published by the USC Center for Sustainable Cities. In addition to Sadd, the report's co-authors are Rachel Morello-Frosch, associate professor of environmental science, policy and management at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health; Manuel Pastor, USC professor of geography, American studies and ethnicity; and Seth Shonkoff, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental science, policy and management at UC Berkeley.