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How to Find Places that Need Help Fighting Climate Change — Voice of San Diego
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How to Find Places that Need Help Fighting Climate Change — Voice of San Diego

Nestor San Diego
Nestor San Diego
An incomplete sidewalk running along Elm Avenue in Nestor’s neighborhood. Adriana Heldiz / Photo

There are 41 categories of data behind San Diegos Climate Equity Index. Its attempt to identify poorer areas that are more susceptible to climate change and funnel money to them.

It could be possible that there is TooMuch data, according one researcher I spoke to.

Greg Pierce, an urban planner at UCLA who studies climate and environmental injustices, said that there is so much going on in terms of the various indicators across different scales. I’m not sure what it means at the end.

He might have a point.

To protect vulnerable citizens, governments need science-based tools that can help them understand where the hazards of a warming planet will be. The Climate Equity Index also evaluates the risks from hazards not directly related to climate change. For example, a neighborhood’s proximity to hazardous waste, pesticide use, or solid waste sites. Climate hazards are often caused by extreme weather events, such as heat waves or droughts.

That could be why, in cases where Nestor was older, less developed, and Ocean View Hills was newly developed, the tool flagged Ocean View Hills to be a neighborhood that deserved extra support.

Ocean View Hills, according to the index, is more susceptible to hazardous waste and solid waste facilities. It also scored higher for the urban heat islands effect, which means it is more vulnerable to extreme heat caused by heat-trapping concrete or pavement. Ocean View Hills is located in a census tract that is near a large landfill. A small airport to its south can also increase pollution. There are also several car and truck recycling yards.

Climate equity, however, is about identifying whether people in an area are able to afford the risks. Ocean View Hills’ most pressing problem is the urban heat island effect. This is due to climate change. As the planet heats up, hotter areas will likely get hotter. What is this tool actually measuring? Climate risks or pollution from decisions made by those in power?

Climate change is directly linked to air pollution. Climate change can lead to changes in air temperature and humidity, which can affect the concentration of dust, oxygen, and other pollutants in the atmosphere. (Dust is more of a problem than you might think. Photos taken from space show expanding dust plumes resulting from drought-stricken West Africa. American shoresOther types of pollution may also be attracted by large dust particles Even COVID-19 can be carried.)

Carolina Martinez, Climate Justice Director at Environmental Health Coalition, stated that she had to fight for the inclusion of data on air pollution in the city’s index, which was updated this year by the city.

Martinez said that air quality has historically been disregarded as a climate issue by mainstream environment groups.

Martinez represented EHC in a group of 35 community groups that were part of the creation process for the Climate Equity Index. EHC was against the creation of a city-owned tool. Martinez said that there is already one. CalEnviroScreen ToolCreated by the states Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

CalEnviroScreen is a tool that maps the disadvantaged communities in each census tract, similar to San Diegos Climate Equity Index. It assesses the health risks and pollution burdens communities face, identifying the 25 percent who are most affected. This is what San Francisco uses in order to determine eligibility for millions in funding for job programs and housing development opportunities, as well as environmental clean-up efforts. The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The newspaper however pointed out that the state tool was not able to reach some of the poorest areas in the city.

Monica Montgomery Steppe, San Diego City Councilwoman, stated that CalEnviroScreen does not cover a lot of vulnerable communities in her area. Staff at the city said that’s part of why San Diego created its own tool in order to capture more communities of interest.

Pierce, from UCLA, stated that the CalEnviroScreen is used far beyond its original purpose in 2000, which was to identify vulnerable populations to pollution. Martinez, an advocate for the environment, says it is the best and most sophisticated tool to identify communities at risk.

She said that it does the job. It is now time for the city’s to take immediate action to provide solutions to the community.

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