Focus Policy Blog


Climate Change Makes Some Americans More Sick than Others

The White House has published a new report that evaluates the effects of climate change on Americans’ health. A significant contributor to climate change is carbon pollution, which is resulting in the following negative effects, among others:

  • Increasing ground-level ozone
  • Rising particle pollution
  • More instances of extreme heat
  • Higher rates of infectious diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus
  • Increased concentrations of pollen
  • More frequent heavy rainfall and flooding

Not all Americans are impacted equally by the negative effects of climate change. Communities where pre-existing conditions are prevalent have increased risk of being harmed by climate change.  For example, communities with higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and asthma tend to have more occurrences of climate change-related health problems.  This is seen by the fact that African-American children are likely to be hospitalized for asthma at a rate twice as high as white children, with many occurrences ending in death for African-American children.  Comparatively, the chances of dying from asthma are 40 percent greater for Latino children than they are for white children.

Proposed solutions to the problem of carbon pollution-impacted climate change are to continue to implement changes such as the EPA’s restrictions on power plant emissions, which will result in healthier communities. Some of the health benefits include fewer heart, asthma, and heat attacks.  Also, improvements will be seen in school attendance rates by children who normally miss school because of poor health due to poor air quality.

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School