Two of the greatest challenges in the United States converge on urban heat islands.
As the world gets warmer, extreme weather events we are increasingly common and increasingly devastating.
In the United States, heat waves have emerged as the leading cause of climate-related fatalities, and communities of color often guy the biggest risks. THE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that extreme heat kills more than 600 Americans each year, which amounts more fatalities than deaths from hurricanes, tornadoes and floods combined.
Temperatures are Increase across the country, but cities have felt the impact of change because metropolitan areas are generally warmer than their natural surroundings. Characteristics of urban development are responsible for the difference: asphalt and tall buildings trap heat.
Researchers have known about these “urban heat islands” since the 19th century, but only recently recognized a correlation between the most popular neighborhoods and a racist mortgage lending practice known like redlining.
Redlining started in 1933, when the federal government created Home Owners ’Loan Corporation (HOLC) to stabilize and encourage home ownership as the nation recovered from the Great Depression. HOLC provided loans to banks and homeowners who were unable to pay their mortgages. HOLC too rated and grades assigned to neighborhoods based on perceived risks to creditors.
HOLC classification system included four designations: “best”, “still desirable”, “declining” or “dangerous”. Neighborhoods with a black or immigrant population were considered risky for investors and used to be labeled “Dangerous.” In some cases, a single Black family was enough for HOLC to assign the lowest rating. When HOLC created maps to illustrate these designations, he outlined the “riskiest” areas in red.
Due to these perceived risks, residents of neighborhoods marked in red could not safe mortgages from HOLC or Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Between the 1930s and 1960s, when redlining became illegal, only about 2 percent of FHA loans were given away for people of color. For many people, home ownership builds wealth that they can pass on to the next generation. In fact, some economists to argue that inheritance and other intergenerational transfers “account for more of the difference in racial wealth than any other demographic and socioeconomic indicators”. Unsurprisingly, the moment Fair Housing Act banned redlining in 1968, the damage was deeply ingrained. Today, 74 percent of neighborhoods marked in red are considered to have “low to moderate income” and many remain “hyper segregated”.
Another result of decades of divestment in marked neighborhoods It is uneven distribution of urban heat. In many cities, green spaces are focused in rich, predominantly white communities. Unlike wealthier white landowners, minority and low-income tenants do not to have the power to lobby city officials or landlords for more green space. Over time, property values knocked down and has remained low. Urban planners even have wore cheap land for the construction of highways and large building complexes with materials that absorb heat, such as asphalt and concrete.
As a result, historically redefined neighborhoods experience temperatures today higher than the city average. In summer, intra-city temperatures can vary at more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Even the most modest differences can create significant housing problems. During heat waves, the risk of dying increases by 2.5 percent for each one-degree increase in temperature.
In Philadelphia, where the areas marked we are about three degrees warmer than the city average, residents’ risk of dying in a red-marked neighborhood is 7.5 percent higher than the city average. In Baltimore, risk can increase by almost 15 percent.
Even before taking into account the risks of extreme heat, the life expectancy of residents in the area reddened we are 20 to 30 years shorter than those in wealthier neighborhoods due to the greater quotes chronic diseases, including diabetes, asthma and hypertension. Extreme heat exacerbates all of these conditions and gifts the risk of other life-threatening illnesses, such as heat stroke and dehydration.
Reducing the effect of the urban heat island will require long-term targeted action. But cities can take immediate action to protect their most vulnerable residents.
In Philadelphia, the Sustainability Office spent eight months getting involved with the residents of Hunting Park, one of the poorest and trendiest neighborhoods in the city. Employees and residents worked together to share information on public service assistance programs, Ramp up mobile resource stations, and decide where to install the cooling infrastructure. They also identified opportunities to use existing assets in the neighborhood, such as extending hours of the community pool and coordinating with local companies that can act as cooling stations.
Cities can also start planting trees immediately. Trees cool the environment, absorbing water and releasing it back into the air. In addition, urban tree tops to cover asphalt so that it does not retain and radiate so much heat. Trees to grow slowly, however, and may not provide all of its benefits for 15 years. Other vegetation, such as vines, shrubs and grass, can grow more quickly and we are also effective soft drinks.
The most significant interventions will demand long-term investment because many effects of urban heat islands are attributable to the neighborhood project. Cities will have to incorporate cooling resources into existing lanes of highways and building complexes. They can offer tax credits for the installation of green roofs that to use live vegetation to shade and cool buildings. Furthermore, replacing paved street segments that reflect rather than absorb heat will lower surface and ambient temperature.
When planning for the future, cities can amend their land use and zoning codes to require additional green space in new developments and demand building height varied to allow air to flow more freely. Cities can also Create climate action plans that prioritize the development of green infrastructure in the hottest neighborhoods.
These solutions will incur significant costs. The total cost of large-scale infrastructure improvements is not yet clear, but it will certainly come at a high price. Still, even planting a tree can cost a city of up to $ 65 a year, benefits can catch up triple that value.
However, cities will have to identify sources of finance or even create their own. Atlanta, for example, recently published its first environmental impact title, which provides millions of dollars for green infrastructure.
Fundraising is not the only challenge that cities will face. Local authorities must ensure that solutions for heat distribution do not exacerbate other inequalities. Researchers warn that increasing green space in low-income areas can accelerate gentrification. To avoid expelling residents from their neighborhoods, specialists suggest collaborate with local housing advocates to develop anti-displacement strategies alongside environmental initiatives. For example, employees in Richmond, Virginia flat to create more affordable housing near parks to combat gentrification.
Reducing the effect of the urban heat island will certainly not erase the entire legacy of redlining. But it is a crucial step in the struggle for environmental and racial justice.