Climate change disproportionately affects the poor and socially vulnerable. The scientific community is responding in its commitment to data and services development that can advance environmental justice. A recent NASA Earthdata Backgrounder profiles some of the work the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Application Center (SEDAC) is doing in this area.
The backgrounder describes a research project focused on the low-wealth, predominately Black community of the Hampton Roads region of Norfolk, VA, which is experiencing rising sea level rise in part because the land area is sinking. SEDAC population data was paired with satellite data to reveal high population density combined with anomalously high sea surface height in this area, identifying high vulnerability. Integrating different types of data in this way lets planners and policymakers make better-informed mitigation decisions that take into consideration social as well as physical impacts of sea-level rise, better insuring environmental justice for vulnerable communities.
In a second example, in collaboration with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), SEDAC helped develop an index that assesses flood vulnerability for Harris County, Texas. Taking a multidisciplinary approach to capturing resilience and susceptibility to flooding, 15 indicators were combined into an aggregate index. The tool can visualize flood vulnerability at the block group level for Harris County and analyze relative flood vulnerability across the region, improving prioritization of flood remediation policies and aid.
CIESIN director Robert Chen, with associate director for Science Applications Alex de Sherbinin and research scientist Susana Adamo, helped organize and co-lead a NASA Equity and Environmental Justice virtual workshop, in their respective SEDAC roles as manager, deputy manager, and project scientist. The workshop report was released in December 2021.