Racial and Income Disparities in Relation to a Proposed Climate Change Vulnerability Screening Method for California

By Paul English, Max Richardson, Rachel Morello-Frosh, Manuel Pastor, James Sadd, Galatea King, William Jesdale and Michael Jerrett.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic Free Download

A key component for public health adaptation strategies for local communities and governments is the development of methods for climate change population vulnerability screening. There have been few attempts to combine multiple climate change threats in a measure which addresses a more holistic concept of population vulnerability that includes exposure, population sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. We propose a screening method to identify populations at high risk from climate change impacts using population vulnerability and the effects of cumulative stressors. We also investigate if racial/ethnic and income disparities interact with climate change vulnerability. We chose several metrics based on the literature and data availability at the sub-county (census tract) level for two California counties. They included measures of exposure related to climate change (sea-level rise, flood risk, and wildfire risk); measures of population sensitivity (elderly living alone and car ownership); and measures of adaptive capacity (tree canopy, impervious surfaces, air conditioner use, and public transit access). We add a previously developed index (Environmental Justice Screening Method) which reflects measures of cumulative impacts. Validation was conducted by using emergency room data from a recent extreme weather event. Analysis of the final scores showed the highest vulnerability in the urban areas, except also at the coast in Los Angeles County. African-Americans and Latinos were more likely to reside in the top two vulnerability areas in both counties compared to whites, and median household income was inversely linearly related to vulnerability risk score. We present a simple and transparent screening tool which could be developed in other regions and could be modified in order to best assess the risks that are of the greatest concern in communities.

Keywords: Vulnerability, Screening, Racial/Income Disparities

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.1-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 5.457MB).

Dr. Paul English

Branch Science Advisor, Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control, California Department of Public Health, Richmond, CA, USA

Dr. English is currently State Environmental Epidemiologist and Branch Science Advisor for the California Department of Public Health, where he serves as a content expert in climate change and health. Dr. English has focused on conducting population vulnerability assessments for climate change, in particular the effects of heat waves. He also served as principal investigator of a Health Impact Assessment of California’s cap and trade regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He has served as an advisor to the World Health Organization in developing climate-sensitive health indicators and was an invited expert for the Indian Institute of Public Health on addressing heat-health vulnerability. Dr. English received his master’s in public health and doctorate in epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley. He has over 16 years of experience working in environmental public health for the State of California and has published extensively in the peer-reviewed literature.

Max Richardson

HIA Project Manager, Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control, California Department of Public Health, Richmond, CA, USA

Rachel Morello-Frosh

Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

Manuel Pastor

University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

James Sadd

Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Galatea King

CA Dept of Public Health, Richmond, CA, USA

William Jesdale

University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

Michael Jerrett

University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA


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