Extreme Heat Is an Inequality Issue

The Guardian sounds the alarm about deadly heat exposure in poor communities around the world.
August 23, 2018, 6am PDT | Elana Eden
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Adha Ghazali

Cities around the world are increasingly reaching "killer temperatures," exposing record numbers of people to deadly heat for weeks at a time—and as urbanization increases, these risks will grow. But within cities, a feature in The Guardian shows, the impacts of intense heat and pollution clearly follow economic and racial lines.

In the US, immigrant workers are three times more likely to die from heat exposure than American citizens. In India, where 24 cities are expected to reach average summertime highs of at least 35C (95F) by 2050, it is the slum dwellers who are most vulnerable.

In general, the authors write, the people most likely to suffer illness or death due to extreme heat include those experiencing homelessness, prisoners, and "low-income populations living near traffic in poor housing with no air conditioning." People who live in areas with trees and green landscaping bear less risk than people in areas dominated by asphalt, brick, and concrete—and research has repeatedly shown that these conditions are largely determined by race and wealth. In the U.S., for example, Berkeley researchers found that "Black people were 52% more likely than white people to live in areas of unnatural 'heat risk-related land cover', while Asians were 32% more likely and Hispanics 21%."

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Published on Monday, August 13, 2018 in The Guardian
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