Killer heat: US racial injustices will worsen as climate crisis escalates

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Dangerous heatwaves are exacerbating systemic racial inequalities, with soaring temperatures expected to further disadvantage communities of colour if greenhouse gas emissions keep rising, new research shows.

Extreme heat is among the deadliest weather hazards humanity faces due to the climate crisis, which contributes to thousands of deaths in the US every year.

Heatwaves have been occurring more frequently since the mid-20th century, and there’s mounting consensus among climate scientists that dangerous bouts of high temperatures and humidity will become substantially more common, more severe, and longer-lasting without adequate action to curb global heating.

Now, new data provided exclusively to the Guardian by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), reveals:

  • Killer heat is already affecting communities unequally: between 1971 and 2000, US counties with more than 25% black residents endured an average of 18 days with temperatures above 100F (38C) compared to seven days per year for counties with fewer than 25% African Americans.
  • By mid-century if Paris climate accord targets are not met, US counties with larger black populations will face a staggering 72 very hot days a year on average – compared with 36 days in counties with smaller African American populations, according to the UCS.
  • Latin communities also suffer disproportionately: historically, counties with more than a 25% Hispanic/Latinx residents experienced 13 days very hot days a year, rising to 49 by mid-century if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed.

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