EPA Publishes Landmark Study on the Effect of Climate Change on Socially Vulnerable Populations

On September 2, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) released a 100-page report, entitled “Climate Change and Social Vulnerability in the United States,” that analyzes the impact of projected climate change on four population groups within the United States. This report represents the Agency’s latest effort to further the Biden administration’s agenda to advance environmental justice and address the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations, as outlined in Executive Order 14008 on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.

The report focuses on how four “socially vulnerable” population groups — defined by income, race, and ethnicity, educational attainment and age — are projected to be affected by air quality, extreme temperature, disruptions to labor, coastal flooding, inland flooding, and damage to property. The analyzed populations fall within the following four categories:

  • Low Income: individuals living in households with income at or below 200% of the poverty level
  • Minority: individuals identifying as Black or African American; American Indian or Alaska native; Asian; native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander; and/or Hispanic or Latino
  • No High School Diploma: individuals ages 25 and older with a maximum educational attainment of less than a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Individuals ages 65 and older

The EPA included the following as key findings of the report:

  • Black and African American individuals are projected to face higher effects of climate change for all six impacts than all other demographic groups. The EPA reports that with 2°C (3.6°F) of global warming, Black and African Americans are 34% more likely to live in areas with the highest projected increases in childhood asthma diagnoses and 40% more likely to live in areas with the highest projected increases in extreme-temperature-related deaths.
  • Hispanic and Latino individuals are employed at high rates in weather-exposed industries, which are especially vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures, such as construction and agriculture. With 2°C (3.6°F) of global warming, Hispanic and Latino individuals are 43% more likely to live in areas with the highest projected reductions in labor hours due to extreme temperatures.

The Agency noted that while the study was limited to the contiguous United States, future EPA analyses will include broader geographic areas, such as Hawaii and Alaska, and will evaluate additional impact sectors and further measures of social vulnerability.

This post is as of the posting date stated above. Sidley Austin LLP assumes no duty to update this post or post about any subsequent developments having a bearing on this post.