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A snapshot from Southern California of life in an altered climate > News > USC Dornsife
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A snapshot from Southern California of life in an altered climate > News > USC Dornsife


The latest USC Dornsife Union Bank LABarometer Survey shows that climate change has had a wide-ranging impact on Los Angeles County residents, including their mental health. [5 min read]

Heat and smoky air are increasingly common in Southern California, raising health risks for residents. (Image Source: Pixabay.)

Residents in Southern California are more exposed to heat and smoky air, which can pose health risks. (Image Source: Pixabay.)

The effects of climate change in the United States have been hard to ignore, from record-breaking heat waves to long-running droughts, floods, and wildfires. While the conditions will vary from one region or another, it is clear there will be an impact on all areas of the nation.

Southern California is where I work, a region known for its temperate climate. Since the last two years, I have worked with my colleagues at the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research have been surveying a representative internet panel of 1,800 Los Angeles County residents to better understand how social and environmental factors such as climate change affect people’s well-being.

Our latest research has revealed that areas of the United States have yet to feel the full effects of rising temperatures. USC Dornsife Union Bank LABarometer SurveyShow them what kind of challenges they can expect. In Los Angeles the climate crisis is already reducing the quality of residents’ lives. Our research clearly shows that the climate crisis’s impacts are disproportionately felt by residents who are poor, young, Black, and Hispanic.

Increasing numbers of people are choosing to stay indoors

The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t the only threat to public health in 2021. Wildfires have ravaged more than 6.8 Million AcresAfter 2020’s 10.1 million acres of land, the U.S. has now consumed 10.1 million acres. Our data shows that many L.A. residents remain home when wildfires threaten their communities’ air quality.

Our survey revealed that 50% of Angelenos have avoided going outside between July 2020-2021 due to concerns about air quality from a nearby wildfire. This is up from 30% last year. This number is expected to increase as wildfires grow in size and frequency. Recent Assessment of climate vulnerabilityIt is predicted that there will be an increase of 40% in Los Angeles’ wildfire-prone areas by 2050.

Large-scale wildfires are now a common occurrence. California annual eventsIn an ever-expanding fire seasons. Los Angeles residents have received WarningsMore information about Wildfire smoke poses a health riskLung damage can occur from prolonged or heavy exposure to asbestos, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, and lung damage. These health risks may be why Angelenos are more careful about outdoor activities when wildfires are raging.

Heat at work and home

Southern California is no strangers to heat. However, the intensity and length of heat waves have been quite unusual in this region. Since the 1950s, it has increased significantlyLos Angeles County has a lot of them, especially in urban areas. Los Angeles was hit by multiple heat waves during the summer and autumn of 2021. Many zones have triple-digit temperatures.

Los Angeles anticipates that by 2050, it will have a population of up to 1. Tenfold increaseIn the frequency of extreme heat wave. This means that there are more heat waves per year than the historic average of just one.

This has serious implications for the region’s health equity. Our data shows that heat vulnerability is not evenly distributed. Black residents are more likely to be exposed to heat at work and home than those of other races.

Home air conditioning access rates are highly influenced by race. Asians and white residents are most likely to report having air conditioning at their homes (90%, 87%, respectively), while Black residents are less likely (66%).

At work, approximately 27% of Black residents report working outdoors without cover – for example, from a tent or booth – compared with 18% of Hispanic residents, 15% of white residents and 10% of Asian residents. It is dangerous to be exposed to heat for too long, especially if you don’t have the chance to cool down overnight. serious health risk.

Expensive and stressful

Our survey also reveals that climate change is affecting Angelenos’ financial and mental health. Based on self-reported data, almost 10% of residents experienced an increase in utility bills, 4.4% lost their income, and 3.1% had health problems due to a natural disaster like wildfire, flooding, or extreme heat.

Los Angeles living has never been easy. California earthquakes are a well-known danger. Climate change is increasing other risks, like wildfires, droughts, and heat waves. All of these events can damage property, threaten residents’ health and safety and force some people from their homes.

Many forms of psychological distress can also be triggered by natural disasters. One in four Angelenos has experienced some type of psychological distress during the past twelve months, including anxiety, depression, long fatigue, or high stress.

These mental health consequences were most noticeable among low-income residents and young people. Angelenos with a lower annual household income than $30,000 were twice as likely to experience psychological distress from a natural disaster than those with higher incomes. The number of Angelenos who experienced psychological distress as a result of a natural disaster was twice that of those who were 60 years old or older.

The climate crisis is both a social and an economic crisis

Los Angeles’s findings show that extreme weather can have serious economic and social impacts as cities and counties prepare for more extreme weather conditions. Climate change has caused millions of Americans to become financially or psychologically isolated in the last year.

Adapting to these risks isn’t just a matter of weatherizing homes and educating the public about climate hazards. Local governments must also prepare for inevitable strains to their social and healthcare systems as climate conditions make obtaining basic needs more difficult.

[More than 140,000 readers get one of The Conversation’s informative newsletters. Join the list today.]The Conversation

Kyla Thomas, Sociologist, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

This article has been republished from The Conversationunder Creative Commons license Read the Original article.


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