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Minority populations across the south and southwest are especially vulnerable to climate change, according to a new report put out by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Local and state governments, it also found, are failing to integrate such concerns into their climate disaster plans.
“Only three states (Arizona, Arkansas, New Mexico) have climate change plans,” noted the study’s co-author, Nadia Siddiqui, during a teleconference Monday discussing the findings. She added researchers found “no evidence of planning for racially and ethnically diverse populations in any state” included in the study.
Siddiqui is Senior Health Policy Analyst with the Texas Health Institute (THI), which conducted the study.
Joint Center President and CEO Ralph B. Everett said in the report the project’s aim is to “encourage the development of policies that engage diverse populations while bringing environmental justice to their communities.”
The states included in the study, titled Climate Change, Environmental Challenges and Vulnerable Communities: Assessing Legacies of the Past, Building Opportunities for the Future, were Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.
Siddiqui pointed out the results were based in part on reviews of existing Web sites and literature relating to plans for coping with climate change, as well as from talks with “representatives from across the states.” All agreed, she said, “this is an area that has not been fully planned for.”
Part of the problem, she explained, is a lack of awareness among policymakers of the varying degrees of vulnerability to climate change from one community to the next. Such issues as poverty, little to no access to health care and other social inequities common to minority communities make them more susceptible to the damaging effects of climate change, she said.
According to the report, nearly one in five residents living in the region fall below the federal poverty line, one in five adults describe their health status as fair or poor, and one in 10 people have Limited English Proficiency (LEP).
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