Minorities in California face greatest climate-change impact

A February 2012 study from the California Department of Public Health found that poor, urban, and minority residents in Los Angeles and Fresno counties are the most at risk for health problems linked to climate change. The study looked at social and environmental factors and found African Americans and Latinos living in these counties are more likely to be exposed to health and safety risks related to poor air quality, heat waves, flooding, and wildfires.

The study also found that areas with a predominantly minority population were more susceptible to heat stress because of factors like limited vegetation, less open space, and reduced access to transportation to visit a cooling station. Minorities are also less likely to own an air conditioning unit in their home and tend to live in areas with high amounts of impervious surfaces like roads, parking lots, concrete, and bricks.

Results of the study showed there was a notable economic disparity between families living in the areas most vulnerable to climate change and those that didn’t—the more at-risk families earning between 40%–55% less each year than the least at-risk families.

However, many climate change skeptics say California’s recent analysis is misleading and unnecessary, stating that the extremes in temperature change are due to wind direction, not global warming. Others claim there is evidence of climate change due to global warming, but it’s only detectable by scientists and not the everyday person.

Despite the skeptics, a bill introduced in November of 2011 by U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-California, calls for a strategic action plan that combats “rising health threats from climate change,” bringing the issue to national attention.