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DATE: September 22, 2004
CONTACT: Disha Zaidi (510-444-3041)


Click here to read the executive summary of the preliminary findings.
Click here to review the supplemental maps.

Oakland, Calif.—Without significant reductions in emissions from fossil fuels, recent scientific studies show California's average temperature will rise from 4.0 to 10.5 Fahrenheit by 2099. The results -- declining air quality and water safety; higher energy, food, water and insurance prices; and more frequent heat waves, fires and floods -- will affect every household and industry in the state. But low-income communities and people of color will be hit the hardest, from higher asthma and death rates to more severe and lasting economic losses.

These are among the main findings of Climate Change in California: Health, Economic and Equity Impacts, a new research study conducted by Redefining Progress, a non-partisan public policy institute based in Oakland, California. The study was funded by Northeast States Center for a Clean Air Future. Preliminary findings will be presented at the California Air Resources Board hearing in Los Angeles on September 23.

Several major factors contribute to global warming's disproportionate impact on the state's disadvantaged populations. These include reduced access to health care; lack of resources to pay for air conditioning, insurance, and relocations; and having to spend a larger portion of available income on necessities such as energy, food and water. California's poor will also suffer the greatest share of job losses in agriculture and tourism, which are especially dependent on current climate conditions.

Health Highlights include:

  • Heat-wave mortality: Blacks are more than twice as likely to die of heat related causes than are Whites; depending on future emissions, they face four- to sixteen-fold increases in mortality from increased temperatures. Asians are only a little less vulnerable than Blacks but more vulnerable than Whites and Hispanics. White mortality could increase two to eight times.
  • Air Pollution: California already has the worst air quality in the nation, with the most vulnerable populations exposed to the highest ozone levels. Higher ozone levels exacerbate existing respiratory ailments like asthma and chronic bronchitis. Asthma is highest among Blacks, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders. Blacks have asthma hospitalization rates 3 times higher than any other ethnic group.
  • Mosquito-Borne Illnesses: Research indicates that a 5.4-9.0 F temperature increase will push the spread of Western Equine Encephalitis and St Louis Encephalitis into the state's northern regions. Low-income Californians, who are more likely to have existing health.problems, poor access to care, and to work outdoors will be more vulnerable to the spread of disease.

Economic Highlights include:

  • Tourism and agricultural losses: The agriculture and tourism industries will be most affected by climate change. Instability in the tourism industry will have a disproportionate effect on minorities in California with 50-75% of work-force in tourism-related sectors belonging to a minority group. Shocks by extreme weather events leading to crop loss would reduce agricultural employment and severely affect Hispanics (agricultural sector employment is 84% minority of which 77% are Latino).
  • Rising Energy and Water Costs: Energy and water costs are projected to rise due to climate change, affecting consumers and industry. Minority and low-income households will be the hardest hit by the rise in energy and water prices. Basic utilities absorb almost twice as much of these households's incomes compared to highest income families. Strain on infrastructure, including public health, will lead to shift in state resources.

"Climate change is already taking a toll on California, and our overall consumption of fossil fuels is putting our most vulnerable communities at even greater risk," said Michel Gelobter, Redefining Progress's Executive Director. "The good news is that policies that address climate change also make our economy more efficient and raise the standard of living for the hardest hit."

The complete, peer-reviewed report will be published later this year.

For a summary of preliminary findings and Redefining Progress's California Air Resources Board testimony, see

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