Climate Change, Environmental Challenges and Vulnerable Communities: Assessing Legacies of the Past, Building Opportunities for the Future

From the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, this report presents research on demographic, health and environmental data for Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. This research examines the effects of extreme weather events and climate-related challenges among vulnerable populations, and highlights opportunities for future adaptive actions, policies and priorities that incorporate social equity into their goals.

16 indictors were selected to guide the vulnerability analysis, and are categorized according to:

  • social and economic factors (e.g. poverty);
  • climate and environmental concerns (e.g. air quality);
  • health disparities in exposure to environmental hazards (e.g. difference in racial and ethnic populations share of health risk from exposure to air toxins versus their share of the population); and
  • adaptation programs and policies (e.g. states with a climate change action plan).

A weighted analysis of these indicators revealed this cluster of six southern states as among the most at-risk to climate change.

The review has affirmed through these indicators, many of the significant challenges in managing the effects of climate change for vulnerable communities in this region. The assessment finds that for certain communities and states, the convergence of these impacts further elevates their risk. For example, as described in the report, Louisiana’s strikingly high rate of obesity and poverty as well as challenges in access to health care, coupled with several climate related events such as sea level rise, an increased frequency and intensity of storms and poor air quality could lead to possibly devastating effects for these vulnerable communities.

Guidance for integrating diverse, low income and other vulnerable population priorities into state climate change policies, programs and strategies is provided, along with detailed recommendations by state and community level.

Recommendations for State level initiatives include:

    • Review and renew existing current state climate change efforts and work to include vulnerable populations within them.
    • Coordinate and communicate promising climate change related priorities and actions across states and regionally, and integrate vulnerable priorities into these cross state initiatives.
    • Integrate vulnerable population concerns and representation into task forces and advisory groups.
    • Develop data that targets climate change priorities to inform programs and state actions.

Recommended Community level initiatives:

    • Make available local climate change actions occurring across the region.
    • Work to assure that vulnerable populations can accept and understand messages about climate change.
    • Community engagement is essential to advancing climate change strategies for vulnerable populations.
    • Leverage academic institutions, to include Minority Serving Institutions for advancing vulnerable population climate change research, outreach and education.
    • Elevate the presence of foundations and the private sector in developing and advancing vulnerable population climate change programs and policies.

This report was prepared for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies by the Texas Health Institute with project support by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.




Publication Date: February 2012

Related Organizations:

  • Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment

States Affected:


  • Socioeconomic

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