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Climate Change’s Fury: A Peek Into Black America’s Struggle

By Stephone Coward

  • Annual labor-productivity losses due to extreme heat could shoot up to $500B by 2050
  • Approximately half of the Black population in the U.S. occupy 11 states where exposure to extreme heat, hurricanes, and flooding is notably high

The severity of the economic impact that Black folks are experiencing due to climate change cannot be hidden anymore. A report published by the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility stated that Black Americans are disproportionately exposed to environmental health risks. Black people are roughly 75% more likely to reside in neighborhoods near high-emission or toxic industrial processes. This subjects them to air pollution levels that surpass equitable standards by at least 56%.

Why This Matters: Half of all Black people in the U.S. reside in 11 states in the southeast where exposure to extreme heat, hurricanes, and flooding is particularly high. The worst part of this is that insurance companies are now starting to not insure communities that experience frequent climate related disasters. These companies see it as a risk to their profit margins and not worth it. After all, the cost of environmental pollution is not exactly cheap. When economic and climate injustices cross paths, sadly, it is not hard to guess who ends up in its crosshairs. Unfortunately, it’s the Black people who are often left over-exposed and with the burden to rebuild their communities after disaster strikes.

The reason: environmental racism. Black communities have been historically devalued, causing them to be prime places for corporations to build toxic plants and factories. Many of these front line communities are also heat islands, urbanized areas that experience higher temperatures because the roads, buildings, and other forms of infrastructure dwarf the natural greenery causing them to experience extreme heat. This extreme heat, according to the Atlantic Council, could cost $500B a year by 2050 in labor-productivity losses leading to potentially more economic inequalities for Black workers.

Situational Awareness: We must build a world where people do business, and live life in a way that does not compromise the ability of the Black people to do the same. To achieve this, policies that prioritize environmental justice, ensuring fair treatment and involvement of all communities in environmental regulations and decision-making processes must be implemented. That said, it might be time to add climate reparations to the list of things that Black Americans are OWED. 

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