Heat, pollution highlight economic disparities

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. barrage / bəˈrɑʒ / (n.) – a great number of something that comes or happens continuously

    The barrage of rain and snow caused the people to panic.

  2. prohibitive / proʊˈhɪb ɪ tɪv / (adj.) – too expensive that people cannot afford or buy something

    A lot of people were pushed into homelessness because of the prohibitive cost of rent.

  3. vegetation / ˌvɛdʒ ɪˈteɪ ʃən / (n.) – plants in general

    I went to a hill covered in vegetation. Looking at all the plants was relaxing.

  4. disparity / dɪˈspær ɪ ti / (n.) – a noticeable lack of equality between people or things, especially in a way that’s unfair

    The survey on people’s annual income shows that there is a great disparity between the rich and the poor in the country.

  5. marginalized / ˈmɑr dʒə nlˌaɪzd / (adj.) – treated as unimportant

    Governments should reach out to children in marginalized communities and help them in their education.


Read the text below.

As climate change fans hotter and longer heat waves, breaking record temperatures and leaving dozens dead, the poorest Americans often suffer the hottest days with the fewest defenses. Centralized air, once a luxury, is now more a matter of survival.

Especially in cities like Denver, Portland and Seattle, which are accustomed to cooler summers, the barrage of heat has highlighted that low-income households, renters and people of color are far more likely to face grueling temperatures without central cooling. Many have window units that can offer respite, but running them nonstop balloons energy bills.

While billions in federal funding have been allocated to subsidize utility costs and cooling systems, experts say they often only support a fraction of the most vulnerable families and some still require prohibitive upfront costs. Installing a centralized heat pump, which offers heating and cooling, can easily reach $25,000.

As temperatures rise, so too does the cost of cooling. In Denver’s Globeville neighborhood, most residents are low-income and people of color living in stretches of concrete and asphalt that hold heat like a cast iron skillet. They can face much hotter surface temperatures than those living in Denver’s wealthy neighborhoods such as a place called Country Club, where mansions pocket a sea of vegetation that shades and cools the area, according to an analysis by American Forests, a group that partly advocates for tree equity in cities.

About 10% of the U.S. population have neither central air conditioning nor a window unit, a disparity compounded for marginalized groups, according to a study by the Brookings Institution. Less than 4% of Detroit’s white households don’t have air conditioning, for example, while that’s 15% for Black households.

In the federal Inflation Reduction Act, billions were set aside for tax credits and rebates to help families install energy-efficient cooling systems like heat pumps — some of those are yet to be available. The Inflation Reduction Act will also offer rebates — point of sale discounts — to install systems like a heat pump, which are more energy efficient and can both heat and cool a home.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • According to the article, centralized air conditioning is once a luxury, but it’s now more a matter of survival. Do you agree or disagree with this? Do you think it would be possible to survive the summer months without air conditioning? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • In your opinion, what can the government do to close the gap or the disparity between the rich and the poor (ex. give more subsidies to the poor, give the poor stable jobs and sources of income)? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • American Forests is a group that partly advocates for tree equity in cities. Do you think their work is important? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • In your opinion, is there tree equity in cities in your country? What can be done to ensure that there is tree equity in all cities? Why? Discuss.