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U.S. Latinos are especially vulnerable to health threats posed by climate change because of where they live, work and lack access to health care, according to a new report.
The report, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), is an English and Spanish review of dozens of U.S. studies and reports on the health and economic impacts that Latinos face as a result of climate change.
- A majority live in California, Texas, Florida and New York, states that are among the most affected by extreme heat, air pollution, and flooding.
- Latinos are heavily represented in crop and livestock production and construction, where they’re at elevated risk from climate-change-boosted extreme heat. They are three times more likely to die on the job from excessive heat than non-Latinos.
- On average, Latino children suffer the same from asthma as non-Latinos, but they are 70% more likely to be admitted to the hospital and twice as like to die from asthma.
- Latinos generally have less health insurance coverage than non-Latinos, so they struggle to access health care when afflicted by climate-related illnesses.
“(Latinos) are extremely vulnerable to hazard and harm from this widening environmental threat,” said Adrianna Quintero, a co-author of the report and director of partner engagement at NRDC. “In so many ways—from where they live and work to dire challenges they face in gaining access to health care—Latinos are at Ground Zero for climate impacts.
But Quintero says there’s a “silver lining.”
U.S. Latinos stand to receive tremendous health, safety and economic benefits from action to reduce the impacts of climate change. This helps explain why Latinos often rank acting on climate high as a national priority—the report notes that 9 in 10 Latinos want climate action, and 86 percent support carbon pollution limits on power plants.
Furthermore, the report notes Latinos can help accelerate a clean energy revolution, creating clean energy jobs, saving people money on electric bills and protecting future generations from climate catastrophe.
“Latinos, and all Americans, also can gain real and sizable health and economic benefits as we cut the carbon pollution driving climate change and transition to smarter, cleaner energy that powers our future,” Quintero said.
Not acting now can have dire consequences, said Juan Declet-Barreto, a health scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists who participated in the report release.
“We know this: If we don’t reduce the carbon pollution fueling climate change, more will become ill, and more will die,” he said.