US Automotive Manufacturing Hubs Exposed to Climate Risk

Introduction: Growing Investment in US Manufacturing

Manufacturing stands out as a key part of President Biden’s America Jobs Plan and there is wide support for strengthening American manufacturing. Historically, manufacturing was a backbone of the domestic economy, contributing around 25% to national GDP, but that number fell to 11% in 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for resilient and local supply chains, and provides an opportunity to transition to a low-carbon economy as part of the recovery. Investing in the domestic manufacturing industry offers a lifeline to new sectors, such as electric vehicles (EVs), which can introduce clean energy jobs nationwide. The American Jobs Plan offers “$52 billion to increase access to capital for domestic manufacturers, focusing on successful existing access programs and targeting rural manufacturing and clean energy” and “a $174 billion investment to win the EV market.” While it’s unclear if this exact proposal will pass, it is likely that there will be growing investment in domestic manufacturing. At the same time, increasingly frequent climate-driven extreme weather events demonstrate the need to build climate resilience into new manufacturing investments.

In this analysis, we explore municipal climate risk exposure in states with significant and growing automotive manufacturing industries. Understanding municipal climate risk is important because in addition to the direct physical threat to manufacturing plants, climate emergencies cause loss of life, hinder commutes and disrupt supply chains by closing roads, airports and other infrastructure. We leverage our county climate risk scores, which quantify population-weighted exposure to floods, heat stress, hurricanes & typhoons, sea level rise, water stress and wildfires, over the 2030-2040 horizon.

Automotive Manufacturing in Michigan & Tennessee

Both Michigan and Tennessee have seen “real manufacturing GDP grow by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 3% between 2009 and 2019, about twice as high as the national rate.” Michigan automotive manufacturing generated around $225 billion and 712,000 jobs in 2019. Automotive manufacturing is Tennessee’s dominant manufacturing sector and the state’s employment in the  sector is 3.3 times higher than national average.

In addition to serving as hubs for traditional automotive manufacturing, Michigan and Tennessee are both seeing increasing investment in EVs, which provide a growing opportunity for these states to continue revitalizing their automobile manufacturing sectors while creating jobs and growing their economies. However, when making capital-intensive investments in new facilities and equipment it is important to consider the long-term risks these assets may face, to protect the company’s investment, and also to ensure that the regional economic benefits are seen.

Flood Risk

In addition to damaging equipment and products, floods can also cause upstream and downstream supply chain disruptions and impact manufacturing productivity if employees cannot get to work. Moreover, since manufacturing can serve as a regional anchor, employees living one or two counties over may be affected by floods that avoid the facility itself.

Figure 1. Michigan county-level exposure to flood risk.

Of Michigan’s 83 counties, 70% are exposed to high flood risk (Figure 1). In 2020, flood damage in Midland County was assessed at over $200 million as heavy rains broke dams and led to significant flooding. Further south,  Wayne County has long been a nexus for the automotive industry and is home to the headquarters of both General Motors and Ford. Ford pledged $850 million  and Fiat Chrysler is investing $4.5 billion to build assembly plants and expand operations there. The county also holds 23% of US automotive production and 76% of total automotive Research & Development. While Figure 1 shows that Wayne County is at a lower risk for flooding than the surrounding counties, all manufacturing in the area would be affected by delivery delays and commute disruptions if the regional transportation infrastructure is not prepared for increased floods.

Figure 2. Tennessee county-level exposure to floods.

In Tennessee, about 90% of the 95 counties are exposed to high flood risk (Figure 2). We find that most key manufacturing hubs are at high risk of flooding, while others are adjacent to highly exposed counties. Williamson County, where General Motors is planning a multi-billion dollar EV battery plant, neighbors Davidson County, the epicenter of catastrophic flooding, and multiple deaths in March 2021. This flood event ultimately led to a Federal Disaster Declaration which expanded to neighboring counties.  Rutherford County has high flood risk and is home of the US manufacturing facility for Nissan Leaf, which was 2016’s most productive automotive manufacturing facility.

Heat Stress 

Heat stress is also a significant threat to manufacturing. It can cause electricity shortages or outages due to increased use of air conditioning, which is already happening more frequently as heat waves increase in duration and severity. Increasing temperatures also present a public health hazard that increases the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory illness and lowers worker productivity. Research shows that temperatures above 90F for six or more days reduces weekly production by an average of 8% in US automotive manufacturing plants.

Figure 3. Michigan county-level exposure to heat stress.

Heat stress is less of statewide concern for Michigan, with only 12% of counties exposed (Figure 3), but it is a high risk for Wayne County, where most of the state’s automotive manufacturing is centered.  Ford, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors all reopened their North American manufacturing facilities on May 18th. This means facilities with high exposure to heat stress are coming back online right as summer is picking up, and the season is likely to be warmer than average, especially in southern Michigan.

Figure 4. Tennessee county-level exposure to heat stress.

Over 92% of Tennessee counties are exposed to heat stress (Figure 4), which represents significant risk for the industry and economies it underpins. The key counties housing the state’s automotive manufacturing facilities are all at high risk. New environmental commitments by General Motors signal growth in domestic EV manufacturing, as they plan a multi-billion dollar EV battery plant in Tennessee with LG Electronics. In a state largely exposed to increasing temperatures, planning for increasing energy costs will help increase the viability of these new facilities.

Mitigating Climate Risk

The revitalization of the US automotive manufacturing industry provides an opportunity for key regions to benefit from population growth, a growing tax base and increased economic activity. However, the success of these developments will rely on business resilience to increasing climate extremes. There are opportunities for municipalities to invest in climate resilience measures both to reduce risk to existing businesses and to attract more business. For example, New York City’s  report outlining ways in which industry can take innovative and cost effective approaches to implementing flood preparedness measures also highlights opportunities for the public sector to support these efforts, including through flexible zoning.

Companies would benefit from exploring a region’s climate risk carefully before developing new facilities and from pricing effective risk mitigations into plant development. For example, for heat stress, at the site level, companies can anticipate higher energy costs, improve insulation, build generators, leverage renewable energy and invest in monitoring and predictive systems to understand facility-level energy use. Nissan installed sub-metering in its Tennessee facilities to monitor energy use, identify unnecessary energy draws, and reschedule certain fabrication to when more energy is available.

Likewise, due to the automobile industry’s reliance on both reliable energy and onsite employees, there are opportunities for businesses to engage with the municipalities to help maintain the resilience of key regional infrastructure to relevant hazards like floods and heat waves. For example, companies can partner with the public sector on initiatives like investing in parks and other green infrastructure which can both help reduce the health impacts of heat waves and can also contribute to flood reduction. Companies such as General MotorsFord, and Nissan invest heavily in education and training for the communities where they are located, and there may be an opportunity to develop trainings around climate risk, which can contribute to increased resilience of the local community, including companies’ employees and customers.

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This post was updated on June 4th to omit data on company facility exposure due to data limitations.

Newsletter: Climate Commitments

Four Twenty Seven, an affiliate of Moody's, sends a monthly newsletter highlighting recent developments in climate risk and resilience. 

In Focus: Climate Commitments

Climate Summit Commitments

The leaders of 40 nations and key private sector participants who joined Biden's Climate Summit last week, made new emissions reductions targets or recommitted to existing promises. The US, Canada, Brazil, Japan and other countries made ambitious new commitments. While change comes when commitments are followed by tangible action, these have the potential to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, with implications for businesses and investors, including significant opportunities.


Financial Sector Action on Climate Change

Meanwhile, financial regulators around the world continue to issue guidance and expectations around climate risk. Last week the EU published the climate adaptation and mitigation portion of its Sustainable Finance Taxonomy and investors will be expected to disclose in line with the taxonomy starting next year. The EU also published a draft legislative proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, which would replace the Non-Financial Reporting Directive and greatly expand the number of companies mandated to report on a range of environmental factors, including climate. New Zealand is considering passing a bill that would mandate climate risk disclosure for banks, insurers and investors by 2023. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority issued a public consultation on its draft guidance for financial institutions to manage the risks of climate change.

Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, announced the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) last week, bringing together several industry-led net zero initiatives focused on supporting the transition to net zero emissions by 2050. Participating groups include the new Net Zero Banking Alliance, the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative and the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance. The Net Zero Insurance Alliance is expected to launch soon and will also join GFANZ. There are over 160 participating firms, which commit to science-based targets, addressing all emission scopes, issuing transparent disclosures and setting 2030 interim targets. 
 

The American Jobs Plan

Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure proposal places climate change and environmental justice in the center. The plan's wide-ranging elements include funding to grow the electric vehicle market in the US and to improve the nation's aging water and electricity infrastructure. There are provisions for affordable housing and a distinct focus on jobs training to support a just transition to a low-carbon economy. The plan aims to remove fossil fuel subsidies and mandate that the companies help pay to cleanup toxic sites. As crumbling infrastructure and polluting facilities are often in low-income communities and communities of color, these items would contribute to fostering environmental justice. Likewise, the plan allocates funding specifically to communities of color and frontline communities, and includes provisions to increase wages for in-home care workers who are often women of color, and for broadband internet development which is particularly needed in Black and Latino communities.

Moody's Analytics assessed the macroeconomic implications of the plan, saying it "provides a meaningful boost to the nation's long-term economic growth."
Banks and Climate Stress Tests

Moody's Webinar - Climate Stress Tests: What You Need to Know

As numbers of regulators begin to roll out climate stress tests and climate risks continue to grow, understanding how to undertake informative climate stress tests is becoming increasingly essential. Join us for a live, interactive panel discussion on climate scenarios and stress testing on Thursday May 6, at  3pm BST / 10am ET / 7am PT.

Key Discussion Points:
  • How are central banks incorporating climate stress testing into financial supervisory requirements?
  • What are the different types of scenarios needed for assessing climate risk?
  • What are the key building blocks for climate stress testing? How do they fit together?
Speakers:
  • Carmelo Salleo, Head of Division, Stress Test Modelling Division, European Central Bank
  • Emilie Mazzacurati, Global Head of Moody's Climate Solutions, Moody's ESG Solutions
  • Burcu Guner, Senior Director-Risk & Finance SME, Moody's Analytics
  • Rahul Ghosh, Managing Director-Outreach & Research, Moody's ESG Solutions (moderator)
Register Here

Moody's Investors Service: Climate Risk for Banks

Moody's Investors Service report, Climate change to force further business model transformation for banks, outlines ways in which carbon transition and physical climate risk will influence banks' risk assessment requirements and present new costs and credits risks for banks. The analysis covers the forthcoming stress testing requirements, discussing their credit implications. 
BIS Resources on Climate Risk for Banks
The Bank for International Settlements released two reports on climate risk, focusing on transmission channels of climate risk to banks and methodologies to measure climate-related financial risks. The report on transmission channels finds that climate risks affects banks through the traditional financial risk categories including market risk, liquidity risk and
operational risk. It underscores the ways in which the impacts of climate risk depend on geography, sector and the economic and financial system and emphasizes the need for more research on how climate risk translates into different types of financial risk. 

The report on measurement tools underscore the needs for granular, forward-looking data on climate-related financial risks, which includes new climate data tools in addition to improved information on counterparty locations. It discusses the early emphasis on risk assessment for near-term transition risk and the need to expand assessments and scenario analysis to include a range of physical climate hazards. The report highlights the increased research focus on translating climate risks into traditional financial risk metrics, noting that much progress to date has focused on credit risk, with market and liquidity risk at even earlier stages. 
Real Assets Exposed to Physical Climate Risk

Moody's Investors Service Adds Climate Data to RMBS Presale Reports

Moody's Investors Service presale and new issues reports for residential mortgage backed securitizations rated out of the US or Europe, now include Four Twenty Seven's physical climate risk scores as an appendix. "While these climate risk scores are not specifically incorporated in our ratings analysis, we believe these additional disclosures will be of great value to market participants," says London-based Moody's Investors Service Senior Vice President Anthony Parry in the press release.

Moody's Investors Service: Climate Hazards Threaten US Seaports

This Moody's Investors Service analysis, Intensifying climate events risk disruptions to seaport operations across the US, leverages Four Twenty Seven's physical climate risk data to assess the exposure of ports to climate hazards including floods, heat stress, hurricanes, sea level rise, water stress and wildfires. It highlights that landlord ports typically have more fixed revenues than port operators, which can reduce the short-term impacts of extreme events. In addition to significant exposure to storms and flooding, West Coast ports often face risks from wildfires, with implications for supply chains and transportation infrastructure. Similarly, while less damaging for the ports themselves, heat stress and water stress can affect agriculture exports, in turn affecting a port's business. Register for free to read the analysis.
Increasing Global Wildfire Potential 

Four Twenty Seven's Peer-Reviewed Research on Wildfire Potential Under Climate Change

2020 was a devastating wildfire year and this year is gearing up to just as hot and dry in many regions. This is a global trend exacerbated by climate change. Four Twenty Seven's article, A global assessment of wildfire potential under climate change utilizing Keetch-Byram drought index and land cover classifications, published in Environmental Research Communications, explores the effects of climate change on global wildfire potential. It shows that by 2040, regions like the American West, Australia and the Amazon will be drier and hotter for much longer than historical averages, experiencing more than 60 additional days of high wildfire potential per year.  

This article provides the detailed methodology behind Four Twenty Seven's publication, Climate Change and Wildfires: Projecting Future Wildfire Potential, which discusses key findings including regional trends and hotspots.

Current Drought & Wildfire Potential in the Western US

Drought contributes to conditions that are conducive to wildfires and also presents significant health and economic risks. In California, farmers are questioning the viability of their businesses and many families are facing depleted and contaminated wells. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is at 28% of normal, dry conditions are expected to persist through June and the summer is expected to have higher than average temperatures. This all suggests that a dangerous fire season is on the horizon. As the state continues to face these costly climate-driven events, California launched a Climate-Related Risk Disclosure Advisory Group earlier this month, to support the development of a climate risk disclosure standard.

Other Western states are also enduring damaging droughts, with North and South Dakota entirely in drought conditions and parts of Texas, Iowa and Colorado all experiencing drought impacts. Last week the White House launched an Interagency Working Group to focus on addressing the drought conditions in the West and their dire implications for farmers, Tribes and other communities.
Upcoming Events

Join the team online at these upcoming events and check our Events page for updates:

  • May 6 Moody's Webinar on Climate Stress Tests: What You Need to Know: Founder & CEO and Global Head of Moody's Climate Solutions, Emilie Mazzacurati, will present on the drivers behind emerging stress testing requirements. See more details above.
  • May 25 Moody's Investors Service Emerging Markets Summit 2021: Associate Director, Research, John Naviaux, will present on sovereign physical climate risk.
  • Jun 2-4 Green Swan 2021: Emilie Mazzacurati will present during the session on climate-related risks data and accounting. Invitation only. 
  • Jun 22 – Ideas + Action 2021: Sustainability and Resilience: Emilie Mazzacurati will present on the economic implications of climate risk. 
  • Jul 23 – Environmental Business Council of New England Annual Climate Summit: Director, Global Client Services, Lindsay Ross, will present on physical climate risks.
  • Sept 22 2021 CARE Sustainability Conference: Director, Communications, Natalie Ambrosio Preudhomme will present on financial climate risk analytics during the panel "Implementation Issues."
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Four Twenty Seven sends a newsletter focused on bringing climate intelligence into economic and financial decision-making for investors, corporations and governments. Fill in the form below to join our mailing list. As data controller, we collect your email address with your consent in order to send you our newsletter. Four Twenty Seven will never share your mailing information with anyone and you may unsubscribe at any moment. Please read our Terms and Conditions.
 

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Newsletter: The US prioritizes climate change

Four Twenty Seven, an affiliate of Moody's, sends a monthly newsletter highlighting recent developments in climate risk and resilience. This month we discuss the Biden Administration's climate policy, share new climate change records and include recent books on climate risk in the financial sector. 

In Focus: Climate Risk a Priority in the US

First Week Signals Biden Administration's Commitment to Climate Action 

The Biden Administration has named climate changes as one of four top priorities, alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice and the economic crisis. Beyond rejoining the Paris Agreement, several of Biden's executive orders in his first week in office relate directly to climate, while others have significant implications for the environment. For example, in an executive order on public health and the environmental, federal agencies are mandated to comply with Obama-era regulations prioritizing climate change adaptation and resilience rolled back by Trump. Further, one of his first executive orders stated that regulatory reviews should promote concerns such as public health, environmental stewardship, racial justice and the interests of future generations rather than focusing on a cost-benefit analysis, which typically fails to fully recognize non-economic  benefits. There have been several key climate appointments and climate has emerged as a critical issue across many agencies, so this will remain a space to watch in the coming months.

The US Financial Regulators Begin to Move on Climate

On Monday the Senate approved Janet Yellen for treasury secretary, after she committed last Tuesday that the Treasury would examine the financial risks of climate change and appoint a senior official to lead climate initiatives. Meanwhile, this week the Federal Reserve announced a climate committee with a mission to "assess the implications of climate change for the financial system — including firms, infrastructure and markets in general." The central bank has slowly been increasing its participation in the dialogue on climate risk and this step signals that it may be starting to truly prioritize the issue.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks, issued a Request for Input on climate risk for its regulated entities. The consultation asks about identifying climate risks and about options to integrate climate risk management into the FHFA's regulatory framework. Respond by April 19.
Climate Records Broken Repeatedly
There was a record 50 billion-dollar extreme weather events endured globally in 2020, with a total of $268 billion in total economic losses according to Aon. While the most costly disaster last year was the summer monsoon flooding in China, causing $35 billion in damage, the majority of the damage from extreme weather was in the US.

It's thus fitting that this past year also ties with 2016 for the hottest year on record, even during a La Niña event, which is a phase in the global climate cycle that typically leads to cooler years. The seven years we just experienced are the seven warmest years on record.

Meanwhile, scientists continue to increase our understanding of glacier dynamics and the implications for global sea level rise. A paper published on Monday found that global sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets are melting 57% faster than they were three decades ago.
Physical Climate Risk for Sovereigns

Four Twenty Seven Analysis: Over 25% of the world's population in 2040 could be exposed to severe heat stress and 57% of the economy could be exposed to flooding 

More frequent and severe extreme events driven by climate change pose a significant threat to populations and economies around the world and understanding who and what is exposed to climate hazards is essential to pricing this risk and preparing for its impacts. Four Twenty Seven's report, Measuring What Matters: A New Approach to Assessing Sovereign Climate Risk, builds on new analytics assessing sovereign exposure to floods, heat stress, hurricanes and typhoons, sea level rise, wildfires, and water stress based on the only known global dataset matching physical climate risk exposure to locations of population, GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) and agricultural areas within countries. 
Read the Analysis
The Latest Books on Climate Risk & Sustainable Finance 

Values at Work: Sustainable Investing and ESG Reporting,

This recent book highlights the latest research on sustainability topics of growing interest to investors, including climate change, pollution, diversity, governance, economic inequality and others. Four Twenty Seven wrote a chapter titled “Asset-Level Physical Climate Risk Disclosure.” The chapter discusses the need for consistent, comparable metrics for physical risk disclosure, using the pharmaceutical sector as a case study to examine climate risk disclosure versus climate risk exposure. 

Carbon Risk and Green Finance

This new book provides a comprehensive primer on both physical and transition climate risks as financial risks. It covers the emergence of reporting frameworks and mandatory disclosure laws in recent years. The latter portion examines the datasets and approaches that can be leveraged to assess and report climate risk, including emerging topics such as climae stress testing and scenario analysis, citing Four Twenty Seven.
Climate Change, Real Estate and
the Bottom Line

Webinar Recording

How will climate hazards like sea level rise and flooding affect real estate and how is the industry preparing? In this webinar in the Goodwin and MIT Center for Real Estate series, The Path to Tomorrow, Global Head of Climate Solutions at Moody's and Founder & CEO of Four Twenty Seven, Emilie Mazzacurati, joins insurance and finance professionals to discuss climate risk for real estate developers, investors and owners.
What the Recording
Upcoming Events

Join the team online at these upcoming events and check our Events page for updates:

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Four Twenty Seven sends a newsletter focused on bringing climate intelligence into economic and financial decision-making for investors, corporations and governments. Fill in the form below to join our mailing list. As data controller, we collect your email address with your consent in order to send you our newsletter. Four Twenty Seven will never share your mailing information with anyone and you may unsubscribe at any moment. Please read our Terms and Conditions.
 

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Measuring What Matters: A New Approach to Assessing Sovereign Climate Risk

December 3, 2020 – Four Twenty Seven Report.  More frequent and severe extreme events driven by climate change pose a significant threat to nations around the world and understanding who and what is exposed to climate hazards is essential to pricing this risk and preparing for its impacts. This new report and underlying analytics assess sovereign exposure to floods, heat stress, hurricanes and typhoons, sea level rise, wildfires, and water stress based on the only known global dataset matching physical climate risk exposure to locations of population, GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) and agricultural areas within countries. 

Read the full report.

Globally, increasingly severe climate conditions impose growing pressure on populations and economies. The implications on economic growth, welfare, production, labor, and productivity are large, with potential material impacts on sovereign credit risk. However, assessing sovereign climate risk presents significant challenges. While most approaches to quantifying future climate risk exposure for sovereigns measure the average exposure over the entire territory of a country, this doesn’t capture whether the populated or economically productive areas are exposed to extremes. Likewise, averages of exposures to several climate hazards can mask extreme exposure to a particular hazard in a certain area of a country.

We’ve mapped the co-occurrence of hazards and exposures, explicitly factoring in the spatial heterogeneity of both climate hazards and people and economic activities across a country. This new report, Measuring What Matters – A New Approach to Assessing Sovereign Climate Risk, provides an analysis of the data. We find that all nations face meaningful risks despite their variation in size and resources. Explore sovereign climate risk in the interactive map below, based on both total and percent of a nation’s population, GDP (PPP) and agricultural areas exposed to climate hazards in 2040.

 

Key Findings:

  • By 2040, we project the number of people exposed to damaging floods will rise from 2.2 billion to 3.6 billion people, or from 28% to 41% of the global population. Roughly $78 trillion, equivalent to about 57% of the world’s current GDP, will be exposed to flooding.
  • Over 25% of the world’s population in 2040 could be in areas where the frequency and severity of hot days far exceeds local historical extremes, with negative implications for human health, labor productivity, and agriculture. In some areas of Latin America, climate change will expose 80-100% of agriculture to increased heat stress in 2040
  • By 2040, we estimate over a third of today’s agricultural area will be subject to high water stress. In Africa, over 125 million people and over 35 million hectares of agriculture will be exposed to increased water stress, threatening regional food security.
  • By 2040, nearly a third of the world’s population may live in areas where the meteorological conditions and vegetative fuel availability would allow for wildfires to spread if ignited.
  • Over half of the population in the most exposed small island developing nations are exposed to either cyclones or coastal flooding amplified by sea level rise. In the United States and China alone, over $10 trillion worth of GDP (PPP) is exposed to hurricanes and typhoons.

Read the full report.

Read the press release.

Contact us to learn more about accessing this unique dataset or explore our other physical climate risk data for banks and investors.

 

*Erratum: In Table 1 of a previous version of this report the “Agriculture Area at High Risk” column was said to be in units of 1 billion hectares. However, it is in units of 100 million hectares. 

Moody’s: Climate Risk and Resilience at US Airports

Climate change will expose the airport sector to increased physical climate risks within the next two decades. In its report, US airports face growing climate risks, but business model and resiliency investments mitigate impact, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s physical climate risk data to explore potential damages from increased exposure of US airports to floods, heat stress, hurricanes, sea level rise and wildfires.

The report found that in 2004-2019, an average 37% of delayed flights annually resulted from climate-related extreme weather events. Airports along coastlines or rivers face particular risks as floods can damage crucial structures such as runways and terminals leading to significant costs or rendering the assets unusable. Likewise hurricanes can cause widespread damage including economic impacts on broader regions. Heat stress and wildfire smoke can both present challenges for planes taking off or landing, leading to delayed or canceled flights or adjusted cargo loads.

Airports often undertake long-term capital intensive projects and integrating resilience measures into planning these investments will be critical. Liquidity will also help absorb the effect of disruptive climate-related events.

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

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To learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data, check out our solutions for investors, banks and corporations or read our report on.

Report: Climate Change and Sovereign Risk

This joint report provides a comprehensive analysis of the ways in which climate risks affect sovereign risk, demonstrating new empirical evidence of how climate risk and resilience influence the costs of capital. It also explores the implications for Southeast Asia in particular, where countries are highly exposed to climate change risks and their economic consequences. Lastly, the report outlines five policy recommendations based on these findings. The report was a collaboration between the Centre for Sustainable Finance at SOAS University of London, the Asian Development Bank Institute, the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore and Four Twenty Seven.

Download the full report.

Download the Executive Summary.

Watch the launch event.

“Climate Change and Sovereign Risk” outlines six transmission channels through which climate change affects sovereign risk and in turn the cost of capital, providing examples of each and explaining how they’re connected. It uses empirical analysis to demonstrate the significant impacts of climate risk exposure on the cost of capital. Using a sample of 40 developed and emerging economies, econometric analysis shows that higher climate risk vulnerability leads to significant rises in the cost of sovereign borrowing. Premia on sovereign bond yields amount to around 275 basis points for economies highly exposed to climate risk. This risk premium is estimated at 113 basis points for emerging market economies overall, and 155 basis points for Southeast Asian economies.

To further explore these channels, the report provides a closer look at Southeast Asia, a region with significant exposure to climate hazards such as storms, floods, sea level rise, heat waves and water stress. Physical risks are expected to considerably affect economic activity, international commerce, employment and public finances across Southeast Asian countries. Transition risks will be prominent as exports and economies become affected by international climate policies, technological change and shifting consumption patterns. The implications of climate change for macrofinancial stability and sovereign risk are likely to be material for most if not all countries in Southeast Asia.

The report highlights the need for governments to climate-proof their economies and public finances or potentially face an ever-worsening spiral of climate vulnerability and unsustainable debt burdens. It outlines five policy recommendations, emphasizing the importance for financial authorities to integrate climate risk into their risk management processes and for governments to prioritize comprehensive climate vulnerability assessments and work with the financial sector to promote investment in climate adaptation.

The report was originally posted by SOAS University of London.

Moody’s Sector In-Depth: REITs can manage climate risk, investments needed to address growing challenges

While real estate investment trusts (REITs) can manage the current physical risks of climate change, increased asset exposure to climate hazards will pose greater challenges. In its sector in-depth, REITs Can Manage Climate Risk, Investments Needed to Address Growing Challenges, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data to assess climate risk for 15 rated US REITs.

REITs are most exposed water stress in regions such as California and the Southwest while heat stress puts strains on operating costs in California, the mid-Atlantic and several Northeast locations. For the REITs assessed in the report, hurricane and sea-level rise risk pose less severe threats than they do in some coastal markets.  pose modest influence in comparison to heat and water stress for most property locations. Floods pose a modest risk to most assessed REITs.

The analysis found that factors such as the power to pass improvement costs to tenants and local government investment in resilience can mitigate these growing risks.  While insurance has traditionally been another risk mitigation technique, these growing changes demand larger capital investments. Asset-level resilience measures can help protect properties from the the impacts of hazards and reduce increased operating costs.

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

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To learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data, check out our solutions for investors, banks and corporations or read our analysis on real estate climate risk in Europe.

Moody’s: U.S. Nuclear Operators Exposed to Physical Climate Risks

Increasing physical climate hazards affect the operations and costs of nuclear plants due to their water needs and reliance on critical equipment. In its report, Nuclear Operators Face Growing Climate Risk but Resiliency Investments Mitigate Impact, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s physical climate risk data to explore the exposure of nuclear power plants to climate hazards, including heat stress, water stress, flooding and hurricanes.

The analysis found that nuclear power plants are vulnerable to increasing frequency of extreme weather conditions such as flooding and storm surge, due to their need for water cooling which means many plants are adjacent to large bodies of water. Technology and equipment required for safe plant operation are susceptible to damage and nuclear plants along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico are particularly exposed to floods from sea level rise.

Clustered in the Midwest and eastern part of the U.S., market-based plants face less risk of hurricanes or sea level rise than regulated/cost-based plants. However, they face increased heat stress and water stress which can reduce plants’ cooling capacity. The credit impact for market-based plants can be more significant than the regulated plants that are more easily able to make-up costs through rate recovery programs.

Nuclear plant operators face physical and economic risks due to extreme events driven by climate change, and operators and owners will have to consider these risks and explore increased resilience options, as they approach license expiration and renewal processes between 2030 and 2050.

Moody’s subscribers can read the full report here.

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To learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data, check out our solutions for investors, banks and corporations or read our report on Assessing Global Wildfire Potential.

Racial Justice and Climate Change: Adaptation

Introduction

Black communities and other people of color are disproportionately exposed to the impacts of climate change and also tend to have fewer financial and healthcare resources to prepare for and respond to these impacts. Adapting to climate change without an explicit focus on racial justice can further reinforce inequalities; hence, building systemic resilience to climate change must include investment in communities that are on the frontlines of climate impacts, including Black communities.

For the Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race & Equity, “racial equity means that race can’t be used to predict success, and we have successful systems and structure that work for all.” Equity means that different groups are provided with the resources they need to address their distinct challenges, acknowledging that these will not necessarily be equal. Thus, adaptation must include equity in every step of the process, from risk assessment and decision-making to planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Key elements of equitable adaptation include conducting vulnerability assessments that account for place-based vulnerabilities, integrating consideration of social and cultural value within budgeting decisions, involving frontline communities in the decision-making from the start, and investing in the resources and policies these communities need to thrive. While by no means exhaustive, this article highlights the importance of racial equity for several phases in the climate adaptation process and shares some emerging best practices.

Risk and Vulnerability Assessment

The first step in the climate adaptation process is identifying risk exposure and vulnerability. Climate risk is not based solely on exposure to climate hazards like floods and extreme heat, but also on vulnerability, driven by a community’s specific characteristics. Vulnerability is shaped by the sensitivity of a given population and its adaptive capacity. Thus, the impact of a climate hazard, such as a storm or drought, will depend upon the resources and sensitivities of exposed communities.

Adaptive capacity is multifaceted, including both tangible resources such as access to transportation, air conditioning and green spaces and intangible elements such as social capital. Effective risk and vulnerability assessments explore these characteristics of a community, to identify how risks may manifest, and serve as the foundation for determining what adaptation measures are needed. For example, members of low-income communities with low vehicle ownership and greater dependence on public transportation will be less likely to be able to evacuate during an extreme event, experience longer-term impacts if subway stations are flooded or damaged, and be more likely to face economic hardship if they cannot get to work or lose their jobs. For extreme heat, communities with more urban green spaces, widespread access to air conditioning, or access to public cooling centers such as libraries, are likely to be less vulnerable than communities in dense urban centers with little greenery and/or those without access to safe public cooling centers.

Social capital is built through regular interaction, shared values or culture, and human connections, which build trust and lead individuals to look out for one another. In some cases, high social capital has increased communities’ resilience, helping to counterbalance a lack of tangible resources. For example, during Chicago’s deadly 1995 heat wave, while Black communities were hit hardest, the Black community of Auburn Gresham stood out with lower death rates than Chicago’s most affluent neighborhoods. The distinguishing factor was the way Auburn Gresham’s infrastructure was conducive to building social capital—its sidewalks and restaurants promoted opportunities to get to know each other and interact. Assessing the social elements of adaptive capacity in climate vulnerability assessments is critical to understanding a community’s needs and ensuring that adaptation efforts build on and leverage existing social capital.

Sensitivity refers to the characteristics of individuals and communities that affect how a climate hazard may impact them. For example, Black communities often have high sensitivity to climate hazards, due to preexisting health conditions, which are driven by disproportionate exposure to environmental toxins. Likewise, agricultural communities are particularly sensitive to water stress due to the water-intensive nature of agricultural activities, with those that lack financial resources and political influence likely to experience the greatest impacts. Engaging with a community to assess its exposure to physical climate hazards, the resources it has to respond, and its residents’ particular sensitivities lays the groundwork for equitable adaptation.

Budgeting

A climate risk assessment centered on concerns for social equity can inform an equitable planning and budgeting process. Traditional cost benefit analysis can undervalue the needs of low-income communities or communities of color, due to its emphasis on ensuring adaptation costs do not exceed  property values. While this approach is often used to determine the best locations for adaptation investment, it can perpetuate inequitable distribution of impacts and investment. For example, in Cedar Rapids, IA, a flood mitigation study found that a region on the Cedar River’s West Bank did not qualify for investments in flood barriers due to relatively low property values. However, hundreds of these homes were destroyed by flooding in 2008. Policy makers can integrate a consideration for equity and improve the longer-term return on investment by replacing the current cost benefit analysis to account for vulnerability and longer-term community impacts and savings, rather than only up-front economic impacts.

The distribution of disaster recovery funds will dictate the resources available for community rebuilding and, in many instances, Black communities do not receive the funds they need. For example, after Hurricane Harvey, Taylor Landing, TX received $1.3 million in recovery funds—about $60,000 per affected resident. Taylor Landing is a town of 228, which had a median household income of about $69,000 in 2017 and, according to the Census, had no Black residents. Meanwhile, nearby Port Arthur, a town of 54,000 residents, with a median household income of $32,000 and a population that was over a third Black, received $4.1 million from the same funding—about $84 per affected resident. This inequitable distribution of funds is due to an unrepresentative regional fund allocation system. The members of the council that distributes the funds disproportionately represent the region’s smaller, primarily white towns, rather than the region’s largest cities, including Port Arthur. Moreover, the Small Business Administration approves disaster loan applications from primarily white communities at almost twice the rate that it does for applications from majority Black communities. This discrepancy is largely because disaster loan applications are based on credit scores, which are typically lower for minority populations and are more likely to remain low if these communities lack the resources to recover. This exemplifies the need for Black communities most exposed to climate impacts to be represented in decisions about resource allocation to support climate resilience and for reconsidering financing structures.

Acknowledging that many Black communities face compounding challenges due to a historic lack of investment in their communities, investing in these communities, and reducing the loss and costs that come with repeated impacts are important steps in ending this cycle. This calls for a restructuring of federal disaster response funding processes, moving beyond rigid frameworks based on home value and including advisory committees composed of members of the frontline communities. Financial institutions also have an opportunity to increase the flow of financial capital to Black communities. Strategies can include building advisory offerings meant to foster financial literacy and savings, shifting to key performance indicators focused on client financial health rather than promoting indebtedness and creating new models to reach those typically excluded. For example, accepting proof of current employment instead of requiring credit history to allow individuals to begin building credit would help those typically unable to access capital begin to obtain financing. Building equity in budgeting and promoting equitable lending practices would play a role in breaking the cycle of disenfranchisement.

Integrating Equity into Adaptation

Maladaptation and the Need for Change

There are many different types of adaptation measures, including structural measures, land-use policies and capacity-building. The impacts and efficacy of any adaptation measure is highly context-dependent. One common point of failure is the exclusion of certain stakeholders or when planners, consultants, and policy-makers make their own judgements of what is important and may ignore important characteristics of the community. In this case, there is often high potential for maladaptation, or unintended consequences that end up perpetuating existing social inequities by increasing the exposure of those who are already on the frontline.

For example, levees and other flood barriers often worsen downstream flooding as they force the water through a narrower channel, so there is more volume to inundate surrounding areas that do not have flood protection. The cost benefit calculations discussed above drive these engineering decisions and lead to protection for more affluent communities while nearby low-income towns endure the consequences. Likewise, while increasing flood insurance premiums may help provide incentives to move from flood-prone areas, for those who cannot afford to leave it also leads to increased affordability challenges and potentially the decision to forgo flood insurance, compounding challenges when flooding does occur.

As governments begin to invest in adaptation measures, there is a risk of climate gentrification, or the pricing out of Black residents and low-income communities. For example, in Norfolk, VA, part of the sea level rise strategy is to demolish several public housing units, replacing them with mixed-income buildings and transforming the rest of this exposed area into a green space that can absorb floodwater. The city provides some assistance and vouchers for relocation, but the burden largely falls on the low-income residents. In some cases, their only options are to live farther away from the city center, paying more money for gas to commute to work and making the daily efforts of providing for their families even more challenging.

Many factors influence the efficacy of adaptation outcomes, including whether or not the adaptation is responsive to the community’s needs. For example, if a new cooling center is built, but residents lack transportation or feel uncomfortable meeting in public spaces with few amenities, the cooling center will do little good. Likewise, evacuating ahead of hurricanes saves lives and warning systems can help prompt more thorough evacuations. However, residents that are not informed about the importance of evacuations or those who do not trust public authorities are unlikely to heed evacuation warnings, particularly if evacuations are challenging due to resource and transportation constraints. The long history of racism and exclusionary government programs have weakened trust of public authorities in some communities. Creating adaptation strategies that are truly equitable and effective requires understanding the community’s needs and tailoring a climate response that can be fully embraced by the community at risk.

Changing Policies

Policy makers must start exploring alternatives to adaptation guidelines that perpetuate inequity, such as the Army Corps of Engineers’ sole use of property value metrics when assessing which communities get flood protection, or waterfront adaptation that leads to climate gentrification. Some cities including those in the Bay Area, Atlanta and Chicago have started developing Land Trusts to ensure that affordable housing is available in the long-term, even as areas increase in value. The Land Trusts permanently own the land, but allow low-income families to enter into long-term leases and to build equity on the homes. When the time comes to move, the family sells to another qualifying low-income family and a resale formula is used to determine the amount, providing profit for the family that is selling while keeping the home affordable for other low-income families. This is one example of ways that innovative policies can foster equity alongside climate adaptation.

Engagement and Representation

Community engagement should be integrated into all steps of the adaptation process. This engagement can be broken down into three forms: outreach, consultation and deliberation. Outreach is the one-way, information sharing that comes from informing the community about climate risks or adaptation efforts, and consultation involves soliciting community feedback on draft plans and decisions. While this is important, it is essential that community engagement doesn’t just occur in the middle or end of the process, but rather is a central component from the beginning. Having community members present during the decision-making process will help identify what the community really needs. Equitable representation of community members, in terms of demographics and socioeconomic status is essential.

Another important outcome of intentional community engagement is transparent, two-way trust-building. Understanding the language, scientific literacy and culture of a community helps to build trust, and ultimately, to reduce vulnerability as a result of more successful and inclusive adaptation efforts.

Building Upon Existing Capacity

As discussed above, social capital is an important component of resilience and shared culture is one element of social capital. It is often the case that strong bonds exist in communities of color based on shared culture. While many Black communities and other communities of color lack financial capital and, thus, often do not have financial resources to build resilience, their social capital provides a solid foundation from which to build equitable, cohesive adaptation plans. Funneling resources through existing networks such as local religious groups and community cultural centers helps bolster this social capital while also allowing the organizations most informed regarding a community’s needs and trusted by its population to lead adaptation.

One example of adaptation rooted in community engagement and trust building is Baltimore’s Make a Plan, Build a Kit, Help Each Other program centered around residents sharing their stories and discussing the impacts of climate change, while working with local experts to develop preparedness plans. It is important to meet communities where they are, framing adaptation efforts around ensuring that communities have the social resources needed to prepare for climate hazards and acknowledging the wealth of insight and experience the community has to provide.

Conclusion

Equitable climate adaptation involves identifying areas that are on the frontlines of climate change and what they need to prepare for climate impacts. It also involves considering the implications of policy and ensuring that a disproportionate burden is not placed on frontline communities. Investing in equitable adaptation is one essential tool for addressing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on Black communities and other people of color. For too long, planning decisions have excluded communities of color, with long-term negative impacts. While more recent adaption efforts have sought to end this vicious cycle by creating a more inclusive environment for planning, communities of color still lack the political clout and funding to move projects forward. Opportunities to build partnerships with (or within) these communities, identify new funding and development models that directly address decades of exclusion, and reduce repeated loss by helping those most exposed confront climate change, must be embraced and advanced.

 

Racial Justice and Climate Change: Exposure

Introduction

The relationship between race and climate change is too often ignored. The recent protests for racial justice and police reform call attention to the fact that racism is still deeply embedded in our institutions and public policies. In the United States, people of color are disproportionately affected by polluting industries and climate change. A long legacy of racist housing policy and weak environmental protections contribute to this disproportionate exposure, coupled with systemic issues related to public health, education and wealth.

As part of our commitment to help raise awareness of the nexus between racial equity and climate change, this article will provide a brief overview of environmental injustice issues in the U.S., as well as highlight the disproportionate impacts of climate change on Black communities and people of color.

Disclaimer: We are aware that the history of environmental justice in the U.S. is deep and complex, and this short piece cannot do justice to the complex web of issues and suffering imposed on minorities. We hope this blog post provides an entry point for identifying organizations and researchers with greater expertise and a long history of commitment to environmental justice.

Housing Discrimination and Environmental Injustice  

The disenfranchisement of Black communities and other people of color in the United States includes discrimination in terms of access to education, public transportation, recreation, employment, healthcare and housing. Environmental racism is just one manifestation of this oppression and is particularly evident in housing and development.

Black communities and other people of color have been relegated to neighborhoods that have greater exposure to environmental pollution and toxicity than primarily white neighborhoods. Housing and lending policies have historically limited options for Black communities and people of color and concentrated these communities in locations with higher exposure to environmental hazards. In the 1930s, federal housing policy actively and intentionally contributed to segregation, subsidizing development for middle to low-income white households and prohibiting people of color from purchasing those homes. Relegated to live only in certain areas, entire minority communities were then “redlined,” labeling home buyers’ mortgages as too risky to insure. “Threat of infiltration of negro[s]” and “Infiltration of: Negroes” were often listed as reasons for giving a community a low grade, and for deeming the community as “hazardous.”

In America, where homeownership is the single most important source of equity- and wealth-building, Black households have historically been shut out of higher-value neighborhoods and have been systematically prevented from benefiting from the upward mobility and financial resources that accompany homeownership. Factors like redlining, disenfranchisement and the operation of toxic facilities in Black neighborhoods means that homes in majority Black neighborhoods are valued at half the price of homes with non-Black residents. Lack of opportunity to build equity through home ownership is a key reason that African American wealth equals just 5% of white wealth in the U.S.

Furthermore, as of 2019 over 30 million Americans live in areas where water infrastructure has violated safety standards. For example, in rural and primarily Black Lowndes County, Alabama, only around 20% of the population has a sewer system—the others have pipes deploying raw sewage into their yards. Navajo Nation residents rely on water contaminated by uranium mining, and infections and cancer are rampant in these communities. Lack of access to safe water leads some residents to drive for hours to obtain safe water, which in turn hampers education and work efforts, further perpetuating inequities. There is a nationwide trend in lack of enforcement and regulation around safety standards for drinking water, and often low-income, Black, Indigenous and other people of color who lack political clout endure the most severe impacts. In 2017 the American Society of Civil Engineers rated the U.S. drinking-water infrastructure as a D, estimating a need for $1 trillion investment in the next 25 years to prevent further erosion of pipes.

After decades of discriminatory housing policies and inequitable development, Black communities are still disproportionately exposed to pollution and environmental toxins, leading to detrimental health impacts which are often compounded by lack of access to suitable healthcare. This disproportionate exposure has been well-documented since the 1980s when a nationwide study by The United Church of Christ Commission on Racial Justice found that race was the strongest determinant of the location of commercial hazardous waste sites. Nationally, “African Americans are 75 percent more likely than Caucasians to live in fence-line communities—those next to commercial facilities whose noise, odor, traffic or emissions directly affect the population.”

Disproportionate Exposure to Climate Impacts and Climate Justice

While climate justice has multiple dimensions, at its core it refers to the understanding that those who are least responsible for climate change suffer its gravest consequences. Globally this manifests in developing countries experiencing the worst impacts of climate change, while their industrialized counterparts bear the responsibility for the carbon emissions responsible for worldwide climate impacts. From an intergenerational perspective, today’s younger generations are inheriting the consequences of older generations’ actions related to climate change, with Greta Thunberg a vocal advocate for generational justice.

Climate justice also manifests through racial inequity, in particular in the U.S., where the impacts of climate change will not be distributed evenly. While Black communities and other people of color bear the greatest health costs of industrial activity and of physical climate hazards, they also bear less responsibility for the greenhouse gas emissions causing the climate crisis. While individuals within these communities can be highly resilient, confronting social and economic disparities daily, these communities also often lack the resources to adequately prepare for and respond to the health impacts of pollution and physical impacts of climate change.

Floods

Flooding in the United States disproportionately affects Black residents, as Black neighborhoods are often in low-lying floodplains, with impermeable surfaces and a lack of effective flood protection infrastructure. In many cases, nearby chemical sites, refineries and other industrial infrastructure are also located in flood zones, multiplying the risks of exposure to toxic chemicals during storms. While many middle-income white households face difficult decisions about whether to permanently leave their home in the floodplain, not everyone has the economic freedom to make such decisions. In many cases, Black residents and other people of color do not have access to the transportation or the savings to evacuate at a moment’s notice, let alone permanently relocate.

Storms

The overexposure of Black neighborhoods to flood risk, alongside the lack of resilience investment in these communities, also leads to disproportionate vulnerability to the impacts of storms. During Hurricane Katrina, Black individuals were among those that were least likely to evacuate, with access to transportation being a key factor. The city’s four largest public housing buildings, primarily occupied by Black residents, were permanently closed after incurring storm damage. Four of the seven zip codes enduring the costliest flood damage due to Hurricane Katrina were at least 75% Black and the community most damaged by Hurricane Harvey was 49% nonwhite. This is a common trend across the nation.

These statistics, stem partially from a history of inequitable funding. In 1965 Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans, causing the most damage in New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward, which are primarily Black neighborhoods. This catalyzed investment in levees to protect New Orleans from flood waters, but these investments went primarily to predominantly White neighborhoods which were not as damaged and already had some flood protection infrastructure. This distribution of funds foreshadowed the unequal distribution of impacts when Katrina hit decades later.

Sea level rise

Global sea levels have risen by about eight inches over the past century, with the rate of rise increasing recently. In responding to sea level rise, jurisdictions tend to take one of two approaches: invest in adaptation measures to keep the water out, or abandon an area to the rising seas. Studies show that low-income minority neighborhoods are more likely to be abandoned while higher-income predominately white neighborhoods tend more often to be protected. One reason for this is decision-making that relies only on financial indicators. Resilience investments driven by cost benefit analysis focusing only on the property values, rather than looking at social and cultural characteristics of a community, further contribute to the inequitable impact of climate change.

Relatedly, as the risks of sea level rise become more evident there is an increased risk of “blue-lining” – a term used by Tulane Professor Jesse Keenan, to express its connection to redlining. Many Black and low-income populations that did not receive investment in sound sewage and drainage systems due to redlining experience the worst impacts of flooding today. As banks and investors learn about exposure to floods and sea level rise, they are increasingly hesitant to offer funding to these neighborhoods. Yet without investment, communities are unable to improve their infrastructure and build resilience, further reinforcing the cycle of racial injustice.

Research in Miami-Dade County, Florida found a positive relationship between price appreciation and elevation in most study cities. This shift can potentially lead to ‘climate gentrification’—another term coined by Prof. Keenan, as minority populations migrate towards more exposed areas. For example, in Miami’s higher elevation, traditionally minority neighborhoods such as Liberty City and Little Haiti, rising property values are making homes unaffordable for residents, reflecting the new preference for high elevation. This combination of being priced out of higher elevation neighborhoods and property values decreasing in more exposed coastal areas may further contribute to the cycle of disproportionate exposure to sea level rise among Black populations and other minority residents.

Water Stress

According to the World Resources Institute’s data, 20% of the U.S. currently experiences “high” or “extremely high” water stress, and this number is expected to increase significantly by midcentury. Population growth will further threaten drinking water supplies, and the impacts will be uneven. In 2014 the water table in Fairmead, an unincorporated town in California’s Central Valley with majority Black and Latino residents, dried up and the citizens had to rely on donations and emergency relief for drinking water. Many of Fairmead’s residents are farmers, relying on water for their livelihoods as well as for human consumption, and water for irrigation comes from private wells that are only a few hundred feet deep. While these farmers cannot afford to drill deeper wells, nearby corporate farms can afford to drill wells up to 1,000 feet deep and are thus less affected by the dwindling water table. Climate change will exacerbate existing inequities around water access, particularly for Black and Indigenous communities.

Extreme Heat

Extreme heat kills more residents annually in the U.S. than any other climate hazard. Temperatures can vary by as much as 20ºF between neighborhoods due to the urban heat island effect. The hottest neighborhoods tend to be disproportionately covered in concrete and home to low-income and Black residents. Research shows that these urban development trends are connected to the history of racist housing policies. Residents in low-income and Black communities are also less likely than middle-income and white populations to have well-insulated homes, access to consistent air-conditioning or cool, safe public gathering spaces. Meanwhile, the asthma, heart disease and other chronic illnesses precipitated by exposure to air pollution, increases the health risks of extreme heat.

Conclusion

Due to a history of segregation and systematic economic oppression Black communities are consistently relegated to areas most exposed to flooding and extreme heat, while at the same time lacking resilience investment and access to educational, health and transportation resources to effectively prepare for and respond to disasters. Investing in equitable climate change adaptation is one facet of pursuing climate justice. Equitable adaptation requires involving community members in every step of decision-making and reviewing adaptation options based on the exposure and vulnerability of the community in question, as well as the potential for downstream impacts on others. We discuss this subject in our blog on equity as a cornerstone of adaptation.