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Meet the 2021 Campaign Cities

Charleston, South Carolina

Year: 2021

Campaign Lead Organization(s): City of Charleston, Climate Adaptation Partners

Get Involved:

Janice Barnes | janice@climateadaptationpartners.com

82+

More hot days by the end of the century compared to the beginning (US CRT Climate Explorer)

2.6%

Population that does not speak English "very well" compared to 8.4% national average. (2019 ACS - US Census)

13.7%

Population living in poverty, compared to 12.5% national average. (2019 ACS - US Census)

13.9%

Population living alone, compared to 15% national average. (2019 ACS - US Census)

Background

In 2020, the City of Charleston completed its first Vulnerability Assessment which identified extreme heat as a significant risk. Charleston suffers two-fold with increasing heat and humidity exposure coupled with a lack of heat risk awareness. Those who suffer most have the least visibility as evidenced in the documentation of energy poverty in Charleston’s poorest neighborhoods. In recent years, there have been efforts to provide some senior citizens with air conditioners and to help with energy bills, but these short-term solutions don’t solve Charleston’s problems. Moreover, Charleston is expected to have triple its current number of extreme heat days by the end of the century but has limited resources to spend given its range of flooding and sea level rise hazards.
 
Many assume heat is manageable whereas flooding and sea level rise present new challenges. This may undermine the ability to address heat. With limited resources, the more apparent issues of flooding supersede the awareness of risks associated with escalating heat, deforestation that exceeds tree planting citywide, and increased impervious surfaces that amplify urban heat. Urban forestation and tree protections intend to mitigate heat, but need better data. Coping relies on air conditioning and a stable power grid. Unfortunately, those with less means struggle, increasing health disparities and impacting co-morbidities.  
Something must be done to raise compound risk awareness, prioritize investment and develop co-beneficial strategies that address heat. While the Vulnerability Assessment identified hazards holistically, Charleston lacks data on where its greatest needs related to urban heat are and how it might best prioritize its investments to serve its most vulnerable. Without similar studies in the region, and with little attention at the State, this campaign has the potential for significant impact beyond Charleston, motivating the region to seek to understand and to address extreme heat.
 

Lead Organization(s)

City of Charleston, Climate Adaptation Partners

Partner Organizations

  • Medical University of South Carolina Arboretum 
  • Citadel James B. Near Center for Climate Studies 
  • Charleston Resilience Network (Over 120 organizations) 
  • Charleston Medical District 
  • South Carolina Interfaith Power and Light 
  • Carolinas Integrated Science Assessment 
  • Medical University of South Carolina Institute for Air Quality Studies
  • Medical University of South Carolina Office of Health Promotion
  • Medical University of South Carolina Sustainability Office

Campaign Goals / Anticipated Outcomes

  • Identify the problem more specifically. We are not clear about UHI areas so cannot see the inequities. Blinded by assumptions instead of data, we are only beginning to understand how materials and systems-based interactions such as distance to bus stops and shade impact our community. By better understanding UHI risks, we will use our community convening capacity to raise awareness and to visualize problems.
  • Couple awareness with baseline data on existing coping capacities that link energy poverty and other vulnerabilities/co-morbidities. We will overlay UHI data on health research and energy poverty to see where to improve. 
  • Identify how ongoing planning/investments may be leveraged for heat reduction. With limited means, particularly with COVID 19, we must stretch our investments and so careful choice is critical. We hope to couple heat reduction with flood reduction to gain more traction with planned investments. 
  • Activate the community on heat reduction so that families may better prepare, and the city and private sector may better invest. We hope to work across generations with our local youth via the schools’ wellness programs and with our senior services particularly in communities that already suffer from inequities.
     

 


 

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NIHHIS Headquarters

Address: 1315 East-West Hwy, Suite 1100
Silver Spring, MD 20910

About Us

NIHHIS is an integrated information system that builds understanding of the problem of extreme heat, defines demand for climate services that enhance societal resilience, develops science-based products and services from a sustained climate science research program, and improves capacity, communication, and societal understanding of the problem in order to reduce morbidity and mortality due to extreme heat.  NIHHIS is a jointly developed system by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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