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Study Traces the History of Racism and Urban Heat Islands

The people living in urban heat islands are much more likely to be inhabited by low-income people of color, and the roots of the environmental justice issue can be found in planning history.
January 21, 2020, 9am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Arizona Streets
Gregory E. Clifford

Kale Williams shares news of a new study that connects urban heat islands (areas where temperatures are exacerbated by the built environment) to a history of racist land use regulations.

Now, a new study from Portland State University is showing, for the first time, that areas prone to excessive heat are disproportionately populated by low-income communities and people of color due to racist housing policies that stretch back more than a century.

Williams summarizes more of the study's findings:

Nearly every city included in the study saw higher temperatures in neighborhoods that were historically subject to discriminatory housing policies, with poorer areas seeing averages temperatures about five degrees higher than their wealthier counterparts. And, of the 108 urban areas analyzed, Portland came in with the worst temperature discrepancy between rich and poor, a difference of almost 13 degrees.

Jeremy S. Huffman, Vivek Shandas, and Nicholas Pendleton wrote the study, which was published in the Climate journal.

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