From record-breaking heatwaves to massive wildfires, floods and prolonged droughts, the impacts of climate change in the U.S. in 2021 cannot be ignored. While the situation varies from region to region, it is clear that countries will not be affected.
I work in Southern California, an area long known for its temperate climate.For the past two years, my colleagues and I have USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research A representative Internet group of 1,800 Los Angeles County residents has been surveyed to better understand how social and environmental factors such as climate change affect people’s well-being.
Our latest results for regions of the U.S. not yet feeling the full force of rising temperatures USC Dornsife-Union Bank Laboratory Barometer polls Show what challenges they can expect. In Los Angeles, the climate crisis is already reducing the quality of life for residents. Our findings clearly show that it disproportionately affects young, poor, black and Hispanic residents.
More and more people are staying indoors
The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only threat to public health in 2021.Wildfires burned more than 6.8 million acres Land across the United States after consuming 10.1 million acres in 2020. Our data shows that many Los Angeles residents stay home when wildfires threaten air quality in their communities.
According to our survey, 50% of Los Angeles residents avoided outdoor activities sometime between July 2020 and July 2021 due to air quality concerns caused by nearby wildfires, up from 30% last year. We expect this number to continue to grow as wildfires increase in frequency and size.recent Climate Vulnerability Assessment It is predicted that the area burned by wildfires in Los Angeles could increase by 40% by 2050.
Mass wildfires have become annual event in california during the expanding fire season.Los Angeles residents have received warn related Health Risks of Wildfire Smoke, which can cause lung damage and worsen cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease and stroke, with severe or long-term exposure. These health risks may explain why Los Angeles residents are increasingly cutting back on outdoor activities as wildfires burn.
Exposure to heat at home and at work
Southern California is no stranger to heat, but the frequency, intensity and length of its heatwaves Significant increase since the 1950s, especially in urban areas like Los Angeles County.Los Angeles experienced multiple heatwaves in the summer and fall of 2021, including Triple-digit temperatures in many areas.
By 2050, Los Angeles is expected to reach tenfold increase the frequency of extreme heat waves. This equates to more than 5 heatwaves per year compared to the historical average of less than 1 per year.
50% of Los Angeles residents avoided going out at some point between July 2020 and July 2021 due to air quality concerns.
This forecast has troubling implications for health equity in the region. According to our data, vulnerability to heat is unevenly distributed among the population. Black residents are significantly more likely to experience heat in their homes and workplaces than white residents.
At home, air conditioning usage is heavily stratified by race. Asian and white residents were the most likely to report having air conditioning in their homes (90% and 87%, respectively), while black residents were the least likely to have this facility (66%).
At work, about 27% of black residents report working outdoors without covering—for example, in a tent or booth—compared to 18% of Hispanic residents and 18% of white residents 15%, compared to 10% for Asian residents.Prolonged exposure to high temperatures, especially without a chance to cool down overnight, is a serious health risk.
expensive and stressful
Our survey also shows that climate change is affecting the financial and mental health of Los Angeles residents. According to self-reported data, nearly 10 percent of residents lost 4.4 percent of their income and 3.1 percent of health problems in the past year due to increased utility bills due to natural disasters such as wildfires, floods or extreme heat.
Living in Los Angeles is never without risk: Earthquakes are a well-known danger here and elsewhere in California. But climate change is amplifying other threats, such as wildfires, droughts and heat waves. All of these incidents can damage property, threaten the health and safety of residents, and force some to leave their homes.
Natural disasters can also cause various forms of psychological distress. More than a quarter of Los Angeles residents reported experiencing some form of psychological distress in the past 12 months due to a natural disaster, including anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue or high stress.
These mental health effects were most pronounced among young and low-income residents. Los Angeles residents with a household income of less than $30,000 a year are almost twice as likely to report psychological distress as a result of a natural disaster than those with higher incomes. Likewise, Angelenos under the age of 40 are more than twice as likely to report psychological distress as a result of natural disasters compared to those 60 and older.
The climate crisis is a social and economic crisis
As cities and counties across the country prepare for more extreme weather conditions, our findings in Los Angeles suggest that extreme weather can have severe social and economic impacts. Over the past year, climate change has left millions of Americans isolated and struggling financially or psychologically.
Adapting to these risks is not just a matter of weathering homes and educating the public about climate hazards. Local governments also need to prepare for inevitable pressures on society and the healthcare system as climatic conditions make it increasingly difficult for people to meet even the most basic needs.
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