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Inequities of Climate Change

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Art by Isabelle Lu, staff artist

With surges of racism plaguing our world, we have seen media coverage on Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and the rising numbers in crimes targeting Asian Americans as an enduring effect of the coronavirus. Yet, in the midst of the active social distancing, our nation is also threatened by the landfall of Hurricane Hanna and Hurricane Douglas - some of the first hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans of the 2020 season. Researchers show clear worry with the effects of these natural disasters intensifying due to climate change. As these numerous issues arise, the world is constantly faced with a recurring fight for equality. Unfortunately, even amongst the effects of global warming lie the cyclical disadvantages of being a different ethnicity, particularly living as a Native American or a black person.

One group at the greatest risk of climate change effects is the Native Americans. These people face direct implications of climate change within their basis for survival. An onset of mild winters has caused an increase in deer ticks, diminishing the population of moose. However, these animals have long been a crucial source  of sustenance for Native Americans. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) prediction of stronger natural disasters due to a warming planet also threatens the location and resources available for Native Americans. The danger of sea level rise has also forced tribes to relocate. Garrit Voggesser, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Partnership, said, “If you’re asking where climate is most impacting tribes, the simple answer is everywhere” (Hilleary, 2017).

President Trump’s proposals have also worsened the situation. His involvement in promoting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines has risked the contamination of sources of water as well as the destruction of sacred areas. Debra Lekanoff, the spokesperson for the Swinomish Tribe of  Washington, states in dismay: “For over 100 years we have lived in a pollution based economy which has caused detrimental damage to the Earth. We have spent just over 40 years in partnership with the United States to restore and protect what the Creator has provided to us. Today, now more than ever is our time to share a strong message to President Trump that we need to continue to support all of those agencies who put resources into cleaning up the environment” (Hilleary, 2017).  

Other groups of people are also disproportionately influenced by global warming.  Following Hurricanes Florence and Michael, black individuals were at a higher likelihood of facing economic and property loss. Blacks were also found to be more likely to be rejected for government aid with disaster recovery than their white counterparts (Climate Change, 2020). Additionally, a study by the University of California has found that African Americans in Los Angeles are nearly twice more likely to die than other residents during a heat wave. Racial economic gaps link to differences in accessibility and residential areas as well. Higher populations of blacks live in areas that restrict their access to available air conditioning. The areas are also more concentrated in concrete, a building material that amplifies the heat. Consequently, African Americans experience intensified effects of heat compared to the residents in other areas.

Many greenhouse gas emitters are centered in poorer neighborhoods, leading to greater areas of pollution and greater impacts on the  health of nearby residents. Industries in California are named some of the heaviest contributors to American production of greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, 60% of its laborers are ethnic minorities  (Fischer, 2009). As we urge for active response and reform to save our planet, we must also call for a plan that finds a way to also relocate employees. Otherwise, we will be widening an existing racial economic gap within our society.

Dealing with the aftermaths of climate change comes with great disparities. Similar to a wealth gap, we see this distinct climate gap widening in social, economic, and ethnic aspects. As we call for environmental justice, our issue at hand does not only concern human harm on the environment, but the disproportionate effects of this interaction as well. As we force change upon people, we must place the utmost priority on  the pleas of the people affected the most.



"Climate change is a minority health issue." (2020, March 26). Clean Air Carolina. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from

Fischer, D. (2009, May 29). "Climate change hits poor hardest in U.S." Scientific American. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from

Hilleary, C. (2017, April 19). "Native americans most at risk from impact of climate change." Retrieved July 15, 2020, from

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Izzy Burgess
Izzy Burgess

I've been looking forward tot his article ever since it was pitched!!! There are so many compounding factors to the impacts of climate change. And the harms it causes are not equal across the board. Thanks for sharing Rebecca :)

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