The climate change issue is a human rights, public health and social fairness issue. It is an issue that was a crisis we all thought was something we must think about tomorrow. It is evident the crisis is here today and we must deal with it now. If you read the headlines, we hear about heat waves, wild fires and floods in our country. Ignoring the facts and not acting, will affect all Americans, however, the effects will be felt more by those least able to cope with, resist and recover from the worst consequences. The real danger is that poor neighborhoods and people of color will suffer worse harms than the rest of Americans. The climate gap is the disproportionate and unequal impact of the climate crises has on people of color and the poor.
One area the climate gap is found is in our health. Many people, including the president, deny the effects of human activity on climate change. However, there is proof of the effects of the change. In a study published by Oxford Academic finds that for every 10 degrees increase in temperature, there is a 2.6 percent increase in cardiovascular deaths. The risks were higher for people over the age of 65 and for infants. The study shows the risk factors for heat related illness and death are higher for low income neighborhoods and people of color.
The climate gap is present with health hazards from not only heat but from increased air pollution. Most of health effects are due to air pollution caused by ozone, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. Higher temperatures exacerbate the dirty air problem. This causes health concerns and rising health care costs. People of color and the poor in urban areas are likely to lack health insurance. The lack of health insurance for people exposed by elevated levels of air pollutants may lead to greater health impacts from heat and air pollution than for those who have health insurance.
Low income families already spend more in proportion of their income on food, energy, transportation and health needs than higher income families. The effects of climate change on the spending gap will continue to grow. What can be done to close the gap? At the federal and state level, we must have leaders willing to develop strategies to reduce climate change. Implementing policies that protect the most vulnerable communities will protect us all. We must also develop policies that close the gap between the economic disparities faced by people of color and the poor and the rest of the population. Policies makers must consider how the people are affected in our communities and what more can be done to help us to adjust to major economic shifts. It frightens me to think of all the cuts the current administration and congress are proposing will affect those who need the most help. We must help the leaders see how cutting from the least will impact everyone the most.
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