According to PPIC’s 13th annual survey on the environment, half of California residents now believe global warming to be a “very serious threat” to the state’s economy and quality of life. Although 11 percent of Californians believe the effects of global warming will never happen, most state residents (63%) say the effects have already begun.
As a result of climate change, cities are expected to grow still warmer in the coming years with “more intense, more frequent and longer lasting” heat waves. With one in five natural hazard deaths in the U.S. caused by extreme heat events, 57 percent of California residents say they are very concerned about more-severe wildfires and 49 percent express concern over more-severe droughts.
Dr. George Benjamin, the executive director for the American Public Health Commission, said in a statement that the effects of climate change have disproportionate adverse health consequences for African Americans and Latinos. Studies of extreme heat have shown racial disparities in heat-related deaths, and Latinos (67%) and blacks (63%) are far more likely than whites (40%) or Asians (38%) to say global warming is a very serious threat.
According to a research paper published by Environmental Health Perspectives, urban tree canopy is an important local mitigating factor for extreme heat; its benefits, including reduced air and noise pollution, have been associated with reduced mortality. Research indicates that disparities in urban tree canopy are “usually in the direction of racial/ethnic minorities living in neighborhoods with lower tree coverage.”
Additionally, impervious surfaces such as asphalt and concrete, which play a strong role in creating urban heat islands, are more likely to be found in areas with a low socioeconomic status and a high proportion of minority residents.
While Latinos (41%) and blacks (40%) are much more likely to express the view that air pollution is a big problem in the region where they live, the majority of Californians agree that air pollution is either a big problem (28%) or somewhat of a problem (34%). 65 percent of Californians now agree that the government should act right away to cut emissions by passing regulations and spending money on efforts to reduce global warming.
The PPIC survey found majority support for policies being proposed and enacted at both the state and federal levels to address global warming; 53 percent of adults say that government is still not doing enough.