Climate refugees: A neighborhood issue?

Researchers are studying the impact of climate change.
Researchers are studying the impact of climate change.
Scientists have been warning of a future global crisis -- the displacement of millions or billions as a result of climate change.

     The term climate change refugee refers to someone who will be forced to move as a result of global warming. The concept evokes populations living near water -- and the threat of cyclones -- or countries where extreme heat could drive residents away. But a new study points to the possibility that some climate change refugees will be people living in lower-income neighborhoods.
     One example can be found in Portland, Oregon, where the potential for flooding and extreme heat is sharpest in East Portland’s low-income neighborhoods, according to researchers from Portland State University in Oregon. That area has fewer green spaces and larger concentrations of less-educated residents.
     City residents battle heat in the summer and flooding in the winter and spring -- and that’s expected to worsen with climate change. But the authors of the study point out that planting trees is an easy and effective way to ease both urban heat and flooding.
     The study, published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, is part of the  National Science Foundation-funded Urban Resilience to the Extremes Sustainability Research Network. The project aims to analyze the impacts of climate change on 10 cities in North and South America to identify risks associated with extreme weather.  The idea is to help cities become resilient. The other cities involved in the study are:
  • Baltimore, Maryland;
  • Hermosillo, Mexico;
  • Mexico City, Mexico;
  • Miami, Florida;
  • New York, New York;
  • Phoenix, Arizona;
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico;
  • Syracuse, New York;
  • Valdivia, Chile.
     The study, "Spatial analysis of urban flooding and extreme heat hazard potential in Portland, Oregon," was published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Authors include Heejun Chang, a geography professor in PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and director of the WISE research group or Water as an Integrated System and Environment,  Vivek Shandas, urban studies and planning professor, along with graduate students Benjamin Fahy and Emma Brenneman.


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