Story at a glance
- Headwaters Economics created a free online tool called Neighborhoods at Risk.
- It’s a databased that represents every community and county in the U.S. and the climate change risks each one faces.
- The database allows users to filter climate change risks by racial and socioeconomic characteristics, which can help focus mitigation efforts.
Cities and counties around the country have experienced all sorts of extreme weather events, from flooding to heat waves and fires, making local residents increasingly vulnerable to climate change. That’s prompted researchers to develop a tool that inform people of their hometown’s climate risks.
Nonprofit research group Headwaters Economics created a free online tool called Neighborhoods at Risk. Users simply need to type in their home city and the database pulls up a local map highlighting areas within a community that have a greater risk of climate change. The database also breaks down communities based on the number of rental housing units, racial demographics and families in poverty.
“It identifies vulnerabilities in every single community and county in the United States,” said Patty Hernandez, executive director of Headwaters Economics, according to The Yale Center for Environmental Communication.
Having the ability to narrow down climate change risks by racial and socioeconomic characteristics is important, as it can help communities determine which localities are not only vulnerable to extreme weather but also who may not have access to a car, families in poverty, people that do not have health insurance, people with disabilities, people over the age of 65, people who don’t speak English, as well as many more characteristics.
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“We’re very aware that too often climate resilience programs fail to help rural and low-income communities and communities of color,” said Hernandez.
“And we have the opportunity to invest in communities and neighborhoods that are being left behind.”
There’s also a climate exposure section that breaks down the percentage of areas in a hurricane flood zone, as well as lacking tree canopy and are impervious surfaces, which are areas that don’t allow fluids to pass through.
In a tutorial video posted to Headwater’s website, Hernandez explains that Neighborhoods at Risk was designed to “meet community planning needs” and creates the opportunity for residents to understand their local risks of climate change and present it to their local elected officials to help with mitigation work.
Data in Neighborhoods at Risk is sourced from Census tracts, small, relatively permanent statistical subdivisions of a county. They average about 4,000 inhabitants.
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