Urban Heat Management and the Legacy of Redlining
Problem, research strategy, and findings: Historical patterns of discrimination and disinvestment have shaped the current landscape of vulnerability to heat in U.S. cities but are not explicitly considered by heat mitigation planning efforts. Drawing upon the equity planning framework and developing a broader conceptualization of what equity means can enhance urban heat management. Here I ask whether areas in Baltimore (MD), Dallas (TX), and Kansas City (MO) targeted for disinvestment in the past through practices like redlining are now more exposed to heat. I compare estimates of land surface temperature (LST) derived from satellite imagery across the four-category rating system used to guide lending practices in cities around the United States, summarize the demographic characteristics of current residents within each of these historical designations using U.S. Census data, and discuss the connection between systematic disinvestment and exposure to heat. LST and air temperatures are not equivalent, which makes it difficult to reconcile existing research on the human health impacts of heat exposure that rely on a sparse network of air temperature monitoring stations with more granular LST data. Areas of these cities that were targeted for systematic disinvestment in the past have higher mean land surface temperatures than those that received more favorable ratings. Poor and minority residents are also overrepresented in formerly redlined areas in each of the three study cities.
Takeaway for practice: By examining areas that have experienced sustained disinvestment, cities may be able to more quickly narrow the focus of heat mitigation planning efforts while furthering social equity. Efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of rising temperatures in U.S. cities must be tailored to the local climate, built environment, and sociodemographic history. Finally, geospatial data sets that document historical policies are useful for centering and redressing current inequalities when viewed through an equity planning lens.