As the climate warms, hot days are getting hotter – often dangerously so. And the risks fall disproportionately on many communities of color.
“When we look at counties that have a high proportion of African Americans in the continental U.S., they tend to be concentrated in the Southeast region – places like Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi,” says Kristina Dahl of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Those also are some of the hottest places in our country already.”
And they’re expected to see some of the biggest increases in extreme heat in coming decades.
Dahl’s analysis of nationwide data shows that by mid-century, counties with large African-American populations will face an average of 22 more extreme heat days each year than counties with smaller African-American populations.
So she says it’s important to consider racial disparities when investing in solutions like cooling centers and planting trees.
“There are a lot of ways that we can start directing resources to underserved communities,” she says, “and thinking about how we reach them in terms of communications about extreme heat and warning people about those dangers.”
Because protecting people from heat is not only a health issue. It’s also an issue of racial equity.
Reporting credit: Deborah Jian Lee/ChavoBart Digital Media.