Sep 2, 2021 - Energy & Environment

EPA: Climate change disproportionately affects marginalized communities

Homes stand partially flooded in LaPlace, Louisiana on August 30, 2021 in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida
Homes stand partially flooded in LaPlace, Louisiana, on Aug. 30 in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Photo: Patrick Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

The effects of climate change disproportionately fall on "underserved communities who are least able to prepare for, and recover from, heat waves, poor air quality, flooding, and other impacts," according to an Environmental Protection Agency report released Thursday.

Why it matters: “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," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

  • "This report punctuates the urgency of equitable action on climate change. With this level of science and data, we can more effectively center EPA’s mission on achieving environmental justice for all," Regan added.

What they found: The report looked at six types of climate impacts among four socially vulnerable groups based on income, educational attainment, race and ethnicity and age.

  • The impacts included air quality and health, extreme temperature and health, extreme temperature and labor, coastal flooding and traffic, coastal flooding and property, and inland flooding and property.
  • The report found that Black and African American individuals are projected to face higher effects of climate change for the six impacts analyzed, compared to the other demographic groups.
    • With 2°C (3.6°F) of global warming, Black and African American individuals are 40% more likely to "currently live in areas with the highest projected increases in extreme temperature related deaths," the report said.
  • It also concluded that Hispanics and Latinos have high participation in weather-exposed industries, including construction and agriculture, which "are especially vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures."
    • With 2°C (3.6°F) of global warming, Hispanic and Latino individuals are 43% more likely to "currently live in areas with the highest projected reductions in labor hours due to extreme temperatures."
  • The report found that American Indians and Alaska Natives are 48% more likely to currently live in areas where the "highest percentage of land is projected to be inundated due to sea level rise."
  • Asian individuals, meanwhile, are "23% more likely to currently live in coastal areas with the highest projected increases in traffic delays from climate-driven changes in high-tide flooding," the report said.
  • The report also found that those with low incomes or with a high school diploma are "25% more likely than non-low income individuals and those with a high school diploma to currently live in areas with the highest projected losses of labor hours" due to climate change.

Our thought bubble: via Axios' Andrew Freedman: The Biden administration has placed environmental justice at the center of its climate change, pollution cleanup, and extreme event resilience initiatives.

  • This comes in response to pressure from activist groups and emerging scientific evidence showing the unequal burden of extreme weather events and exposure to toxic chemicals and air pollutants.
Go deeper