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Historic Discrimination Leads To Disproportional Climate Change Impacts In Richmond

Richmond's Urban Heat Islands
Richmond's Urban Heat Islands (Photo: Data: Shandas, Voelkel, Williams, and Hoffman (2019), Map produced by Science Museum of Virginia)

The Science Museum of Virginia hosted Congressmembers Donald McEachin (D-VA) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) Tuesday to share findings on the effects of rising temperatures in cities like Richmond.

Jeremy Hoffman, the chief scientist at the museum, has been studying the impact of the urban heat island. He says that climate change doesn’t affect everyone in the same way.

He’s found that the hottest areas in Richmond today are the same ones that experienced the discriminatory practice of redlining throughout the 20th Century.

“And that has now led to measurable impacts on their socioeconomic status and according to our research, the environment itself,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman says these neighborhoods don’t have the same level of investment in green spaces and other environmentally sound infrastructure.

According to the National Climatic Data Center, extreme temperatures are the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States.

Hoffman says that initiating tree equity programs could provide respite for those seeking shade, as well as helping with a variety of other environmental issues including air quality and flooding.

“It’s not a silver bullet, it’s silver buckshot,” he said.

The data Hoffman gathered with community members is now being used in discussions about Richmond’s master plan update and its effort to reduce carbon emissions.

This story was produced by WCVE intern Patrick Larsen.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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