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Within three decades, the San Joaquin Valley’s annual average temperature could increase by 4 degrees, worsening water quality and health hazards in the impoverished communities of California’s agricultural heartland, according to a new regional climate change report.

Those hit hardest by the increasing heat will be poor farming communities that lack the resources necessary to adapt, according to the UC Merced report. That conclusion was based on dozens of recent scientific studies on a variety of issues related to climate change, and assumes a worst-case scenario for global carbon emissions.

“Many families in San Joaquin Valley rely on agriculture as their main source of income,” said Jose Pablo Ortiz-Partida, a climate and water scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists and co-author of the report. “Now, climate change is gunning for them. They need all the help they can get.”

The report, part of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, paints a dire portrait of life in the southern Central Valley as increasing water scarcity, poverty, low air quality and rising temperatures conspire to erode health, economic opportunity and environmental resources for the region’s most disadvantaged.

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