It’s no exaggeration to say climate change is looming as a major problem for all of humanity. It threatens the habitability of our land, the stability of our food supply and, simply put, the future of our species. It’s important to note, though, that the impact of this problem is not equal for everyone. Like many issues that society faces, climate change is likely to impact low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately.
According to the Miami Herald, there’s been a long-running discussion in South Florida about what can be done to protect these at-risk populations from the growing climate crisis. The term “climate gentrification” is being used a lot: people are noticing the increase in tropical storms and floods, and they’re moving to higher ground. Many Floridians, unfortunately, can’t afford this type of premium real estate. The regional economy is clearly feeling the crunch—home prices are rapidly increasing, and flood insurance premiums are rising as well.
Hugh Gladwin, a professor at Florida International University who studies climate gentrification, sees the economic impact of climate change as a more pressing issue than the climate itself.
“[This will be a crisis] way before sea level rise hits,” Gladwin told the Herald. “It’s like we’re losing what we need to keep going, which is a workforce that can stay here.”
Poor citizens face additional problems due to climate change beyond housing. The rising temperatures will also make many health conditions worse, including asthma, heart disease and lung disorders. Obviously, those who can’t afford health insurance will be adversely affected. On top of that, people who do manual labor outdoors or live in insufficiently cooled homes will have to deal with an unlivable climate for long stretches of time.
Every U.S. city will have to deal with this problem to some extent, but Miami is one that’s especially vulnerable. Data from Climate Central shows that by 2030, the city will have about 130 days each year where the heat index reaches 105 degrees or higher. The city is taking action to combat this problem—its plan of attack is backed by over $400 million in funding over the next five years—but there are still questions. Who is that money really for? Will the assistance go to the people who need it most? So far, these questions remain unanswered.
Photo: The Holiday Manor trailer park in Naples, Florida, was destroyed by Hurricane Irma. Credit: Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock.com