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Climate change challenging Latinos' health and heritage

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Eric Galatas

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(Colorado News Connection) 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 Colorado and every state are experiencing challenges to their mental health and identity due to climate change. 

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"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 Colorado, she explained prolonged drought, ground level ozone pollution, and bigger & more frequent wildfires threaten Latinos, while in other states they are displaced by rising sea levels. Among respondents, 71 percent of Latino adults said climate change already affects their community.

Some conservatives and supporters of fossil fuels argue taking action against climate change would slow economic growth.

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 percent 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.