Climate Change: Heat & Drought

Our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and resulting climate change are leading to higher temperatures and record-setting heat waves, drier and more arid conditions in the Southwest, and more frequent and severe droughts. These conditions are having troubling consequences on public health and access to services, job security, and economic productivity. Latino communities are disproportionately impacted by these conditions and Latino voters are not only aware of these impacts, but are ready for Congress to take action to address climate change, prepare for and mitigate extreme heat and drought, and protect our nation’s precious water resources.

Why is this important to Latino communities?

Access & Health

  • Earth’s globally averaged temperature for 2017 made it the third warmest year in NOAA’s 138-year climate record, behind 2016 (warmest) and 2015 (second warmest).
    • Increased daytime temperatures, reduced nighttime cooling, and higher air pollution levels associated with urban heat islands can affect human health by contributing to general discomfort, respiratory difficulties, heat cramps and exhaustion, non-fatal heat stroke, and heat-related mortality.
    • Latinos are 21% more likely than whites to live in urban heat islands, or immediate geographic areas dominated by heat-retaining asphalt and concrete where parks, shade-providing trees, and other vegetation are lacking.
  • There are 2.5 - 3 million farmworkers in the United States, 80% of whom are Latino.
    • Nationally, farm and construction workers accounted for nearly 58 percent of occupational heat deaths from 2000 to 2010, and Latinos had three times the risk of heat-related death on the job than did non-Latinos.
  • Over a two-week heat wave in California in 2006, 655 deaths, 1,620 hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 excess emergency room visits, resulted in nearly $5.4 billion dollars in costs. Major heat waves such as this are expected to occur more frequently in the future with increasing global temperatures.
  • In 2015, 19.5% of the Latino population was not covered by health insurance, as compared to 6.3% of the white population that is uninsured, which means Latinos are less likely to have access to healthcare services to prevent and treat these extreme heat health threats.

Jobs & Economy

  • Higher temperatures are intensifying heat waves and drought in the Colorado River basin, California, and across the southwest U.S.
    • Workers in agriculture, construction, utilities, and manufacturing are more vulnerable to heat waves and higher temperatures, leading to lost productivity, increased healthcare costs, and economic strain.
    • 16.8% of Latinos are natural resource laborers (agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting), compared to 10.3% of whites. Higher temperatures and heat waves will thus disproportionately impact Latino laborers.
    • The California drought led to losses of more than 10,000 jobs and the fallowing of 540,000 acres, at a cost of $900 million in gross crop revenue in 2015.
  • In the Southwest, agriculture accounts for 79%44 of water withdrawals. Across the Colorado River Basin, 43% of agricultural water use is sourced from the Colorado River.
    • Between 2000 and 2014, annual Colorado River flows averaged 19% below the 1906–1999 average, the worst 15‐year drought on record. Approximately one‐third of the flow loss is due to high temperatures now common in the basin, a result of human caused climate change.
    • The Colorado River alone drives a $1.4 trillion dollar economy and 16 million jobs annually, sustaining over 35 million people, including one-third of the nation’s Latinos.
  • There are 2.5 - 3 million farmworkers in the United States — whose livelihoods depend on agricultural production, water availability, and workable temperatures — 80% of whom are Latino.

Public Opinion

  • 82% of Latinos see climate change as a threat to water supply — more than any other demographic group.
  • 70% of Latino voters in the west perceive long term drought as a threat.
  • 71% of Latino voters perceive pollution of rivers, lakes and streams and 68% perceive pollution of drinking water supplies as threats.49 Fossil fuel extraction and production, wildfires, drought, and air pollution can all contribute to poor water quality and water pollution.
  • 88% of Latinos believe that cuts to funding for protections for water quality is a serious problem.50

About Us

HAF improves the lives of Hispanics in the United States and promotes civic engagement by educating, motivating and helping them access trustworthy support systems.

Phone: (202) 640-4342

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