Environmental Racism and Natural Disasters: Preparing for a Future Defined by Climate Change


  • Patrick Mays North Mecklenburg High School
  • Michael Bischoff Mentor, North Mecklenburg High School
  • Ronald Schmidt Mentor, Former Political Science professor at California State University Long Beach




Natural Disasters, Climate Change, Environmental Racism




This paper argues that the negative effects of climate change induced natural disasters are felt disproportionately by poor and minority communities, and that it is more difficult for them to recover after crises. Because climate change has resulted in an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters and is only expected to get worse, disparate effects from natural disasters are a crucial topic to focus research on. This paper will expand the framework for future research in the field of environmental justice by establishing a focus on the intersection between global warming, natural disasters, and environmental racism. It will also illustrate the disparate impact of natural disasters on poor and minority communities with a series of case studies and will evaluate the government’s response in each case.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Michael Bischoff, Mentor, North Mecklenburg High School

History Teacher, North Mecklenburg High School

Ronald Schmidt, Mentor, Former Political Science professor at California State University Long Beach

Former Political Science professor at California State University Long Beach

References or Bibliography

Buis, Alan. (2020, March 10). How Climate Change May Be Impacting Storms Over Earth's Tropical Oceans. NASA, https://climate.nasa.gov/blog/2956/how-climate-change-may-be-impacting-storms-over-earths-tropical-oceans/.

Bullard, Robert D. (2008). Differential vulnerabilities: Environmental and economic inequality and government response to unnatural disasters. Social Research, 75(3), 753-7 84,1033. Retrieved from http://nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?url=http://search.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/differential-vulnerabilities-environmental/docview/920744459/se-2?accountid=13217.

Bullard, Robert D. (1999) Dismantling Environmental Racism in the USA, Local Environment, 4:1, 5-19, DOI: 10.1080/13549839908725577.

Bullard, Robert D. (1993). Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots. United States: South End Press.

Buheji, Mohamed & Cunha, Katiane & Mavrić, Bartola. (2020). The Extent of COVID-19 Pandemic Socio-Economic Impact on Global Poverty. A Global Integrative Multidisciplinary Review. American Journal of Economics. 10. 213-224.10.5923/j.economics.20201004.02.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), (2021, Feb. 18). Risk for COVID-19 Infection, Hospitalization, and Death By Race/Ethnicity, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-race-ethnicity.html.

Chakraborty, J., PhD., Collins, T. W., PhD., & Grineski, S. E., PhD. (2019). Exploring the Environmental Justice Implications of Hurricane Harvey Flooding in Greater Houston, Texas. American Journal of Public Health, 109(2), 244-250. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846.

Chang, Alvin. (2021, Feb. 20). Why the cold weather caused huge Texas blackouts – a visual explainer. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/20/texas-power-grid-explainer-winter-weather.

Cutter, S. L., Emrich, C. T., Mitchell, J. T., Boruff, B. J., & al, e. (2006). The Long Road Home: Race, Class, and Recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Environment, 48(2), 8-20,2. Retrieved from http://nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?url=http//search.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/long-road-home-race-class-recovery-hurricane/docview/224015968/se-2 accountid=13217 .

Dobbins, James and Tabuchi, Hiroko. (2021, Feb. 16). Texas Blackouts Hit Minority Neighborhoods Especially Hard. New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/16/climate/texas-blackout-storm-minorities.html.

Domonoske, Camila. (2021, Feb. 18). No, The Blackouts in Texas Weren't Caused By Renewables. Here's What Really Happened. NPR, https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-winter-storms-2021/2021/02/18/968967137/no-the-blackouts-in-texas-werent-caused-by-renewables-heres-what-really-happened.

Garcia, Marc A, PhD & Homan, Patricia A, PhD & García, Catherine, PhD & Brown, Tyson H, PhD. (2020). The Color of COVID-19: Structural Racism and the Disproportionate Impact of the Pandemic on Older Black and Latinx Adults, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 76, Issue 3, March 2021, Pages e75–e80, https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbaa114.

Godsil, R. (1991). Remedying Environmental Racism. Michigan Law Review, 90(2), 394-427. doi:10.2307/1289559.

Gonzalez, Oriana. (2021 Feb. 17). Texas power outage highlights inequalities for minority neighborhoods. AXIOS, https://www.axios.com/texas-power-outage-minority-neighborhoods-inequality-f57e3e24-a137-4705-ba5f-222f545bca0e.html.

Green, R. D., Kouassi, M., & Mambo, B. (2013). Housing, race, and recovery from hurricane Katrina. Review of Black Political Economy, 40(2), 145-163. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12114-011-9116-0.

Henkel, Kristin & Dovidio, John & Gaertner, Samuel. (2006). Institutional Discrimination, Individual Racism, and Hurricane Katrina. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy. 6. 99 - 124. 10.1111/j.1530-2415.2006.00106.

Hernández, Arelis R. (2021, Feb. 28). The power is back, but millions of Texans wonder what it will take to fully recover — and who will help them. The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/texas-recovers-winter-storm-damage/2021/02/28/37df9818-7846-11eb-948d-19472e683521_story.html.

Jordan, Rob. (2019, Mar. 15). How does climate change affect disease? Stanford Earth, https://earth.stanford.edu/news/how-does-climate-change-affect-disease.

Karaye I.M., Thompson C., Horney J.A. (2019). Evacuation Shelter Deficits for Socially Vulnerable Texas Residents During Hurricane Harvey. Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology. doi:10.1177/2333392819848885.

Krebs, C. (2018). The Trump Administration's Hasty Environmental Rollbacks. Texas Environmental Law Journal, 48(2), 313-354. https://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/txenvlw48&id=332&men_tab=srchresults#.

Kurane I. (2010). The effect of global warming on infectious diseases. Osong public health and research perspectives, 1(1), 4–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrp.2010.12.004

Pulido, Laura (2000). Rethinking Environmental Racism: White Privilege and Urban Development in Southern California, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 90:1, 12-40, DOI: 10.1111/0004-5608.00182

Najmabadi, Shannon (2021, Feb. 22). Texans blindsided by massive electric bills await details of Gov. Greg Abbott's promised relief. The Texas Tribune, https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/22/texas-pauses-electric-bills/.

powell, john a. 2015. Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Exclusive Society. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Ramer, A. (2017, Sep 13). Environmental racism: Hurricane Harvey Falls Hardest on Low-SES, Marginalized Communities. University Wire. Retrieved from http://nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?url=http://search.proquest.com/wire-feeds/environmental-racism-hurricane-harvey-falls/docview/1938214393/se-2?accountid=13217.

Robbins, Jim. (2019, Nov. 14). Climate Whiplash: Wild Swings in Extreme Weather Are on the Rise. Yale, https://e360.yale.edu/features/climate-whiplash-wild-swings-in-extreme-weather-are-on-the-rise.

Tomlinson, Sherrie Armstrong. (2006). No New Orleanians Left Behind: An Examination of The Disparate Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Minorities. Connecticut Law Review, vol.38, no. 5, July, p. 1153-1188. Hein Online.

Tai, Don Bambino Geno & Shah, Aditya & Doubeni, Chyke A. & Sia, Irene G. & Wieland, Mark L. (2021, Feb. 15). The Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the United States, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 72, Issue 4, Pages 703–706, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa815.

World Health Organization (WHO). n.d. Climate Change And Infectious Diseases, https://www.who.int/globalchange/climate/en/chapter6.pdf

Yancy CW. (2020). COVID-19 and African Americans. JAMA. 323(19):1891–1892. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6548.

Yancey-Bragg, N'dea and Jervis, Rick. (2021 Feb. 20). Texas' winter storm could make life worse for Black and Latino families hit hard by power outages. USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/02/20/texas-ice-storm-blackouts-minorities-hardest-hit-recovery/4507638001/.



How to Cite

Mays, P., Bischoff, M., & Schmidt, R. (2021). Environmental Racism and Natural Disasters: Preparing for a Future Defined by Climate Change. Journal of Student Research, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.47611/jsrhs.v10i3.1566



HS Review Articles