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Community-Informed Heat Relief: Policy Options for Addressing Urban Extreme Heat in High-Risk Communities

June 30, 2021

Extreme heat causes more deaths than any other weather-related hazard. Due to the legacy of racially discriminatory redlining practices and long-term lack of investment in their communities, people of color in urban areas are disproportionately exposed to high temperatures and suffer greater consequences. To help policymakers and communities address this public health threat, the Georgetown Climate Center is releasing Community-Informed Heat Relief: Policy Options for Addressing Urban Extreme Heat in High-Risk Communities to inform a new comprehensive heat plan currently being developed by the District of Columbia, and to serve as a resource for other cities impacted by urban extreme heat.

Author or Affiliated User: Katherine McCormick

Resource Category: Planning

 

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Extrema Paris Heat Map

Extrema Paris Heat Map: The EXTREMA Project—funded primarily by the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid of the European Commission—is a mobile application that alerts its users if there is a high health risk in a certain area due to extreme heat, and directs the user to the nearest cooling facility or installation. To determine this health risk, the application uses real-time data regarding temperature, humidity, and discomfiture for every square kilometer, which is updated every five minutes, and evaluates the risk to an individual user based on their personalized health information.

Resource Category: Data and tools

 

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Citizen Science: Mapping Urban Heat Islands in Richmond, Virginia

The urban heat island mapping project in Richmond, Virginia is a collaborative project that brings community members together to collect temperature variation data in order to design community-scale adaptation plans. Richmond is a highly populated city that has encountered increased urban heat island effect in recent years. While current technology such as satellites can provide city-scale urban heat data, a more detailed, block-by-block examination of temperature variation in each community has to be studied to understand which communities are most vulnerable to the extreme heat. "Citizen-scientists" were gathered to help measure temperatures in their own city, and related human activities or land use. The citizen-scientists included students from the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University; the Virginia Academy of Science; the City of Richmond’s Sustainability Office; and Groundwork RVA, a nonprofit focused on empowering local young people in the communities.  

Related Organizations: City of Richmond, Virginia, Groundwork RVA

Resource Category: Monitoring and Reporting

 

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Million Trees Miami - Miami-Dade County, Florida

Miami-Dade County, Florida’s Million Trees Miami initiative aims to plant 1 million trees in lower-income communities with insufficient tree canopy in order to alleviate heat stress in the county. This initiative stems from the County’s 2006 Street Tree Master Plan, which set a goal to achieve 30% tree canopy in Miami-Dade by 2020. Neat Streets Miami, a multi-jurisdictional County Board, is working to implement this goal through the Million Trees Miami initiative. Through a 2016 Urban Tree Canopy Assessment, the County determined that lower-income areas, including predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhoods, had significantly less tree canopy than their wealthier counterparts. As a result, the County is prioritizing tree planting in its most impoverished and low-canopy areas through initiatives such as the Street Tree Matching Grant. Increased tree canopy cover in communities provides many important adaptation benefits, including protection from flooding, urban heat island mitigation, and improved water and air quality. 

Related Organizations: Miami-Dade County, Florida

Resource Category: Solutions

 

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New York City COVID-19 Heat Wave Plan

May 15, 2020

In May of 2020, New York City (NYC)’s Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a COVID-19 Heat Wave Plan to keep vulnerable New Yorkers cool at home, create safer summer cooling options, and anticipate and reduce power outages. The plan addresses the higher risk for indoor summer heat exposure that vulnerable residents face while simultaneously trying to maintain social distancing in the context of a global pandemic. The $55 million plan directs the City to install 74,000 air conditioning units in the homes of residents who are 60 years of age or older, retrofit new spaces for emergency cooling centers, and better prepare for power outages. The plan lessens risk for vulnerable NYC residents of heat-related illnesses and death, as well as COVID exposure or infection. NYC recognizes the intrinsic connection with climate change, social equity, and COVID-19 recovery, and is committed to protecting the most vulnerable from climate impacts like extreme heat.   

 

Related Organizations: City of New York, New York, New York City Housing Authority, New York State Public Service Commission

Resource Category: Planning

 

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City of Tempe, Arizona 2019 Climate Action Plan

2019

The City of Tempe, Arizona’s first Climate Action Plan (CAP) offers a roadmap toward sustainability and climate change resilience focusing on emissions reductions in transportation and energy use, and resilience to extreme heat. The plan includes twelve climate mitigation and adaptation actions for the city government, businesses, and residents of Tempe. 

Related Organizations: City of Tempe, Arizona

Resource Category: Planning

 

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Scorched: Extreme Heat and Real Estate

August 2019

Extreme heat is an increasingly severe climate change impact across the United States - to the environment and natural resources, public health, infrastructure and ultimately, the economy.  Scorched provides an overview of extreme heat’s implications on the built environment and current and future real estate markets. Heat mitigation and adaptation strategies are discussed related to building design, building materials, green infrastructure and public space design. Case studies highlight the how the real estate sector is leading in implementing ‘heat-resilient’ building designs and land uses.

Related Organizations: Urban Land Institute

Authors or Affiliated Users: Katharine Burgess, Elizabeth Foster

Resource Category: Solutions

 

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Community Heat Relief Plan

July 2019

The City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania addresses extreme heat and social disparities in its Beat the Heat Hunting Park Community Heat Relief Plan. The plan provides a roadmap of how to conduct an inclusive climate planning process through a community-based approach to combat urban heat emergencies. Beat the Heat was released in July 2019 by Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability (OOS), in response to increased heat being identified as one of the main climate change threats in the city. OOS found that communities, where low-income residents and residents of color reside, are also most vulnerable to the heat. To cope with the heat disparities, OOS initiated the Beat the Heat pilot project in Hunting Park, which was identified as the most heat vulnerable neighborhood. The purpose of the project is to learn the causes of heat disparities and utilize a community-driven decision-making process to generate possible solutions for staying cool in the future. The plan is a collaborative work effort of city agencies, Hunting park organizations, residents, and community groups. Through the community engagement process, three priority areas were identified: 1. Staying cool and safe at home, 2. Staying cool and safe in public spaces, and 3. Greening and tree planting. The plan also provides a step-by-step Beat the Heat Toolkit for other urban communities to reduce social inequities and build climate resiliency.   



Related Organizations: City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Resource Category: Planning

 

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Killer Heat in the United States

July 2019

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has evaluated how climate change will contribute to increasing incidence of dangerous high heat days across the U. S. This includes an analysis of the growing number of high heat days across various regions of the country, described under three climate change scenarios. The report also details the public health consequences of extreme heat and the populations that are particularly vulnerable to these threats. Policy recommendations are offered with adaptation measures that can be implemented at all levels of government to address rising temperatures.

Related Organizations: Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)

Authors or Affiliated Users: Kristina Dahl, Erika Spanger-Siegfried, Rachel Licker, Astrid Caldas, John Abatzoglou, Nicholas Mailloux, Rachel Cleetus, Shana Udvardy, Juan Declet-Barreto, Pamela Worth

Resource Category: Assessments

 

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California Heat Assessment Tool (CHAT)

2019

The California Heat Assessment Tool (CHAT) was developed to help state and local public health officials understand how heat vulnerability will change with increasing temperatures due to climate change. The tool helps users identify heat vulnerable areas based upon changes in high heat days under different climate scenarios and social, health and environmental vulnerability factors. The study defines "Heat Health Events" (HHEs) as heat events that cause negative public health impacts - and the study found that vulnerable groups may be more sensitive to high-heat days by as much as 6 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit as compared to the general population.

Related Organizations: California Natural Resources Agency, Four Twenty Seven

Resource Category: Assessments

 

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