Berkeley Study Shows Blacks Disproportionately Live in Danger Zones for Excessive Heat

A new Sunstudy by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found that Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to live in environments where they will be more susceptible to harmful effects of heat waves.

Using satellite imagery, researchers identified areas where there were no trees and where more than half the land area is covered by heat-absorbing hard services such as pavement or concrete. The results show that heat-prone neighborhoods were more likely to be populated by Blacks and Hispanics than by Whites. African Americans were more than 50 percent more likely than Whites to live in heat-prone neighborhoods.

Lead author of the study Bill Jesdale, a research associate in the department of environmental science, policy and management at Berkeley, stated, “This study highlights a mechanism by which racial and ethnic minorities will likely suffer more from the effects of climate change. It may not be surprising that minorities live in inner cities, but this is the first paper to assess what that means in terms of heat vulnerability at a national level. Planting trees and changing the heat-absorbing characteristics of our built environment may be crucial to protecting our public’s health by mitigating heat risks, particularly in densely populated central areas of cities.”

The paper, “The Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Heat Risk-Related Land Cover in Relation to Residential Segregation,” was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives and may be accessed here.

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