How climate change threatens Latinos’ health and heritage

Roz Brown | Public News Service
Latinos account for 47% of agricultural field workers and 46% of construction laborers in the U.S. and face extreme summer heat threats due to climate change. Photo Credit:Jack / Adobe Stock

As climate change makes extreme weather events more common globally, Latinos often face the most significant effects to their health, safety, food security and livelihoods.

new report from the Hispanic Access Foundation details the effects and how climate change erodes cultural legacy when neighborhoods undergo gentrification, displacing traditional communities.

Vanessa Munoz, conservation program manager for the Hispanic Access Foundation, said Latinos in every state are experiencing challenges to their mental health and identity due to climate change.

“Some places might suffer severe temperatures and others might be more exposed to flooding or to a lot of wildfires, which is often where a lot of the Latino communities reside,” Munoz pointed out.

In New Mexico, she explained drought and higher summer temperatures threaten Latinos, while in other states they are displaced by rising sea levels. Among respondents, 71% of Latino adults said climate change already affects their community.

To promote what she called a “just transition” toward a climate-friendly economy for all people, Munoz noted the report includes a toolkit and policy recommendations to help communities better preserve Latino heritage.

“One of the ways is joining groups and forces to really protect our lands and prevent that from expanding — to prevent further loss and damage — which is necessary in these times of climate change,” Munoz contended.

Latinos are projected to make up 30% of the U.S. population by 2050, and more than half reside in states with the highest levels of climate change threats. The Hispanic Access Foundation released its “Cultural Erosion: The Climate Threat to Latino Heritage” report at the recent COP28 conference in Dubai.