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Are African Americans More Vulnerable to Climate Change?

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Inspired by a recent storm, Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd explains in a piece for Ebony why this generation's greatest environmental challenge is even more serious for black people.

… But why is climate change affecting African Americans disproportionately? For a few reasons:

Where We Live: 2012 was possibly the warmest year in the U.S. record, according to NOAA. The majority of African Americans live in urban areas. The combination of climate warming, heatwaves, and the urban heat island effect (which causes temperatures in major cities to be warmer than suburban and rural areas) renders many Blacks at risk of suffering heat-related health issues. A 2008 study by The Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative found heat-related deaths among Blacks occur at a 150 to 200 percent greater rate than for non-Hispanic Whites. Cities also tend to have more air pollution and smog — which leads to an array of health complications like asthma (which affects Blacks at a 36 percent higher rate of incidence than Whites) and other upper respiratory issues…

Social Vulnerability: A number of studies (such as this one) show that socially vulnerable groups such as the elderly, lower income, racial minorities, and women were more likely than other income groups to perceive greater risks from natural disasters but be less likely to respond to warnings about disasters; to suffer disproportionately from the physical and psychological impacts of disasters; experience injuries or higher mortality rates; and find it more difficult to recover after disasters. Water-borne disease, post-traumatic stress, loss of jobs or hours, and infrastructure damage also have lasting effects on the African-American community …


Read Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd's entire piece at Ebony.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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