Hurricane Ida devastated communities from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, destroying homes and lives of primarily low-income families. Those disproportionately affected in the U.S. are racial minorities who carry the nation’s burden of environmental crises and their negative health effects, according to a new Environmental Protection Agency study.

The report found that racial and ethnic minority communities are “least able to prepare for, and recover from, heat waves, poor air quality, flooding, and other impacts.” The key finding reveals that African American communities are 40% more likely to live in areas with projected increases in extreme temperature-related deaths and 34% are more likely to live in areas with the highest projected increases in childhood asthma diagnoses. 

With a predicted 3.6°F rise in global warming, American Indians and Alaska natives are 48% more likely to live in areas that will be inundated by flooding from sea level rise while Hispanic and Latino individuals are 43% more likely to currently live in areas with the highest projected reductions in labor hours due to extreme temperatures. Meanwhile, White Americans are 19% more likely to lose valuables or real estate.

The comprehensive review was a “first of its kind,” according to Joe Goffman, acting head of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation: “One of the underlying lessons of this report is that so many communities that are heavily Black and African American find themselves in the way of some of the worst impacts of climate change, as was the case with Katrina and, we may find, turns out to be the case with Ida.”

The impact of Hurricane Ida is still being calculated but the total damage and economic loss is estimated to reach $80 billion, AccuWeather said. So far, Ida has left over 1 million people without power and many have been forced to evacuate their homes and towns. 

President Joe Biden on Thursday said climate change’s extreme storms have arrived and the country needs to be better prepared for such events: "The past few days of Hurricane Ida and the wildfires in the West and the unprecedented flash floods in New York and New Jersey is yet another reminder that these extreme storms and the climate crisis are here."

In response to the devastating series of storms this year, the Department of Health and Human Services created the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity. This marks the first federal program that will specifically examine how greenhouse gas emissions affect people’s health, The Washington Post reported.