Where in the U.S. does a changing climate create the highest risks?
Communities across the heavily industrialized — and deeply inequitable — Gulf Coast are among the most vulnerable in the U.S. to the risks presented by climate change, a new index created by Environmental Defense Fund and Texas A&M University reveals.
The Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) analyzes climate threats and ground conditions in 70,000 Census tracts using more than 180 indicators over five categories: health, socioeconomic status, infrastructure, environment and extreme events. This most vulnerable region stretches from Mobile, Alabama, to Corpus Christi, Texas. Though many other tools exist, the CVI “stands out in its breadth and scope,” E&E News reports.
Weihsueh Chiu, a study co-author and Texas A&M professor, stressed the “hyperlocal nature” of health and socioeconomic disparities that will be magnified by rising average temperatures and associated disasters like hurricanes, wildfires and droughts. He said the South generally scores high on the index for “baseline vulnerabilities” — think of them as preexisting conditions — because it has high rates of poverty and health problems, largely due to development and investment patterns and lack of access to care.
As President Biden’s administration attempts to reckon with a changing climate and advance environmental justice and racial equity through federal spending in the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CVI will help "ensure that adaptation efforts are targeted to those most in need,” Grace Tee Lewis, the study lead author and senior health scientist in EDF's Climate and Health program, co-wrote in a blog post.
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