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EPA report warns people of color face disproportionate harm from climate change

In a new analysis released Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency warns that if the global temperature rises 2 degrees Celsius, it will result in higher sea levels, flooding, and excessive heat — all of which will disproportionately harm Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and Alaska Natives.

Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the planet has warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius, and by the early 2030s will likely warm by more than 1.5 degrees, The Washington Post reports. The EPA determined that should the Earth warm by 2 degrees, American Indians and Alaska Natives are 48 percent more likely than other groups to live in a region that is susceptible to flooding because of rising sea levels. Black people are currently 40 percent more likely than other groups to live in areas that experience extreme high temperatures that can cause death, and that number jumps to 59 percent as the planet heats up. Latinos would be 43 percent more likely than other groups to lose work hours because of high temperatures. 

The report is the "first of its kind," Joe Goffman, acting head of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, told the Post, and one of its underlying lessons is that "so many communities that are heavily Black and African American find themselves in the way of some of the worst impacts of climate change, as was the case with Katrina and, we may find, turns out to be the case with Ida." 

Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana as a Category 4 storm on Sunday, strengthened by ocean water that was hotter than average because of climate change. The storm caused destruction across the state, tearing roofs off of houses and bringing down electrical poles, before moving up through Mississippi and Alabama. Ida's remnants brought torrential rain to the Northeast, which caused deadly flooding in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland.

The EPA report's release "couldn't be more perfectly timed," Moms Clean Air Force co-founder Dominique Browning told the Post. Ida and the devastation it caused are likely a glimpse into the future, and proof that "we are in such an emergency," Browning said. Read more at The Washington Post.