The summer will be hot, but for the poor it will be even hotter

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to: Bettina Menzel

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A New Yorker sits on the edge of a fountain on Sixth Street in sunlight and over 30 degrees (stock photo, 2018). © Richard B. Levine / Levine-Roberts / Imago

Summer 2022 is supposed to be hot. But not everyone experiences heat waves equally – they affect the poor the most. Also in the same city.

India 2025: Hundreds of thousands of people fall victim to a 50-degree heat wave. This is a scene from Kim Stanley Robinson’s book The Ministry of the Future. Reality may soon catch up to fiction, as a severe heat wave in May 2022 hit India and Pakistan. “This heat wave could kill thousands of people,” the Berkeley Earth Institute for Climate Analysis warned. It is not only on the other side of the world that the poor suffer more from the heat. Even within the same city, summer is hotter for the poor than for the rich.

Heat waves are increasing – and approaching

60 degrees Earth temperature, people gather under bridges to cool off. “These are appalling conditions,” Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Ozdemir (the Greens) said in May about the heat wave in India. Extreme temperatures have also been reported from Cyprus and Spain this year. In some regions of Spain, temperatures were 15 degrees above average. According to experts, the increase in heat waves in Europe is a result of man-made global warming.

But not everyone suffers equally. Even in the same city, it is the poor who feel the temperatures much more. It is not only about the poorer equipment – such as air conditioning – in the private area, but also about the various infrastructure. team of reporters The New York Times I conducted research this past summer in New York City, USA and have now published my findings. They came to the conclusion that the slums are designed differently and literally absorb heat. At the same time, they provide fewer opportunities to cool off or escape from high temperatures. This has health consequences.

Heat wave in the city: the poor suffer more

Heat wave New York City queens of concrete pavement
A street in Queens, New York City. Concrete sidewalks store heat (photo archive, 2020). © John Marshall Mantel / ZUMA Wire / Imago

Heat kills about 350 New Yorkers each year, but the risk is not evenly distributed: Black New Yorkers are more likely to die of heat-related complications than white residents, like them. The New York Times Indicates. There are various reasons for this, some more obvious than others. 96 percent of people in the Upper East Side have air conditioning, compared to 76 percent in the poorest Bronx. The poor are less likely to have a car to go to the countryside or the sea. Public swimming pools are often crowded and difficult to access. What doesn’t seem like an urgent problem at first can have serious health consequences. New York City projects at least 57 days annually in 2050 above 30 degrees. Refrigeration is then no longer a luxury issue, but a survival strategy.

There are also differences in infrastructure: in the Queens region of Jamaica, for example, sidewalks are made of concrete, which literally absorbs and stores heat. In the more upscale Jamaican Estates, on the other hand, trees line the path and lawns surround the sidewalks. This heat absorbs better and the trees provide shade. The surface temperature differed by about six degrees on the same day, although the areas are very close. In the Bronx, 63 percent of an affluent Riverdale neighborhood is covered in vegetation. In contrast, in lower-income Mott Haven in the South, only 18 percent are evergreen. On average, the parks are hard to reach and far from the slums.

Heat wave: What does New York have to do with Germany?

Germany and the United States are very different in many respects. However, there are big differences between rich and poor even in Germany. In Munich, the contrast between the super-rich and the needy is especially great. According to the 2017 Poverty Report, about one in six Munich residents lives below the poverty line. Here, too, there are clear structural differences between neighborhoods such as Grünwald and Hasenbergl.

A report from the Robert Koch Institute also showed that the poor die early. Men who earn less than 60 percent of average income die about 11 years earlier than those who earn at least 150 percent or more. This was a result of the RKI report in 2016. The reason is indirect psychological and physical factors such as a healthy lifestyle, stress, nutrition, or monotonous or hard physical work. searching for The New York Times Now he points out that urban planning also plays a role.

Not only the heat, but flooding as well is more of a risk than ever. The Flood of the Century in 2021 is one of the biggest flood disasters in German history. When Hurricane Ida swept through New York City, the odds of death also seemed uneven. Eleven people drowned in their homes. They live in low-cost apartments below street level.

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