Increasing flood risk driven by human-caused climate change will disproportionately harm Black communities in the South, new research published in Nature Climate Change finds. According to the study, Appalachia and the Northeast currently have higher flood risks, and flood damage will increase by more than 26% nationwide in the next 30 years, according to the study. However, as climate change, primarily caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, pushes flood risks further south, Black people will be at greater risk — both because more Black people live in the South and because the communities where Black people live will see disproportionately rising risk.
“Poorer, Whiter communities bear that historical flood risk, but the people that are bearing a disproportionate burden of those new risks are typically Black communities across the Southeast,” Oliver Wing, the study’s lead author, told the Washington Post.
Increasingly great vulnerability to flooding is yet another example of the racist systems in the United States putting Black communities at greater risk of environmental harm. “Take New York as an example. Black and poor people of color and even poor white people are situated in the lowest lying areas of the city. We have to ask ourselves: What is preventing our government from protecting all of its people?” Anthony Rogers-Wright, director of environmental justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, told NBC. “The answer is systemic racism.”