People of color are as interested in buying electric cars as white consumers – the biggest obstacle is access to charging

More EV charging hookups in public locations like garages and parking lots would prompt more drivers of color to buy EVs. Extreme Media via Getty Images

by Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, The New School

A nationally representative survey of 8,027 Americans shows that across all racial demographics, overall interest in purchasing electric vehicles is high. Among those surveyed, 33% of white respondents, 38% of Black respondents, 43% of Latinos and 52% of Asian Americans say they would “definitely” or “seriously consider” purchasing or leasing an EV as their next vehicle.

The survey was conducted by Consumer Reports, with input from the nonprofit advocacy groups GreenLatinos, the Union of Concerned Scientists and EVNoire and administered between Jan. 27 and Feb. 18, 2022, by NORC at the University of Chicago, an objective, nonpartisan research organization.

Electric vehicles are critical for reducing transportation emissions, but communities of color currently adopt this key technology at lower rates than white drivers. This survey, for which I was an adviser, helps to shed light on some of the reasons for this disparity.

Cleaner air for all

Air pollution in the U.S. disproportionately affects communities of color. To take just one statistic, Latino children are about three times more likely than non-Hispanic white children to live in a county where air pollution levels exceed federal air quality standards.

Transportation is a major source of harmful air pollutants, particularly nitrogen oxides. These compounds contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and smog, which can cause or worsen many types of respiratory diseases.

Motor vehicles also emit soot and toxic compounds. Because of these pollutants, people who live near roadways are at elevated risk of ailments including heart disease, impaired lung development in children, preterm and low-birthweight infants, childhood leukemia and premature death.

Transportation is also the largest source of global warming emissions in the United States. Light-duty passenger cars and trucks contribute 58% of transportation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Weather-related events such as heat waves, air pollution and flooding can be exacerbated by climate change and disproportionately harm U.S. communities of color.

Climate change is taking a disproportionate toll on low-income and minority communities across the U.S.

Where can we plug in?

Ours was the first consumer-oriented survey to analyze barriers to EV adoption along racial demographic lines. The goal is to help policymakers and advocates better understand why Black and Latino consumers are buying fewer EVs than white consumers and what concerns explain this gap.

We found that charging EVs at home – the most affordable way to charge EVs today – is not an equally viable option for all communities, particularly those with higher proportions of renters or multifamily dwellings. People who own their homes can much more easily have EV charging equipment installed on the premises and use it to charge their cars safely and conveniently overnight.

In our survey, nearly 75% of white respondents owned their homes, compared with fewer than 50% of Black respondents and slightly over 50% of Latino respondents. Multi-unit dwellings, such as apartment buildings, often do not offer EV charging for residents. We found that increasing affordable, accessible and reliable public EV charging infrastructure in safe locations would address all of these groups’ biggest concerns about EV charging.

The survey findings also suggest that improving access to financing and incentives for both new and used EVs would help to accelerate EV adoption.

Getting the message out

Our results show that increasing access to EVs is a key way to educate communities about the benefits of driving them. But it’s not clear yet how to create education and engagement initiatives that focus on Black and Latino consumers and target their specific needs and concerns.

Finding better ways to include Black and Latino communities in the EV transition is important because it can help to address gaps and mitigate systemic barriers to adoption and achieve environmental justice.

Providing help and incentives for apartments and condominiums to install EV chargers will help reduce barriers to widespread EV adoption. Our survey showed that Black and Latino drivers are more likely to use public or on-street parking, so incentives to support the build-out of publicly accessible charging infrastructure are also critical.

Purchase incentives that are more accessible and target buyers at more income levels will bring EVs within reach for more people. For example, tax credits could be made refundable, allowing people without sufficient tax liability to still take advantage of the credit, or incentives could be made available at the point of sale.

We plan further research that can identify ways to overcome the barriers spotlighted in this survey and help create a just and clean transportation future for all.

Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, Adjunct Lecturer in Urban Studies, The New School

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation

Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation (CMRA) integrates information from across the federal government to help people consider their local exposure to climate-related hazards. View climate-related hazards in real time and use information on past, present, and future conditions to understand exposure in your area in order to plan and build more resilient community infrastructure.

People working in community organizations or for local, Tribal, state, or Federal governments can use the site to help them develop equitable climate resilience plans to protect people, property, and infrastructure. The site also points users to Federal grant funds for climate resilience projects, including those available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

A key to controlling emissions: More buildings in a city’s unused spaces

Read the full story from the New York Times.

Constructing more condensed communities in existing neighborhoods has been found to go a long way toward fighting climate change.

Towns may grow millions more trees with $1.5B for urban forestry

Read the full story at Stateline.

States and cities across the country are beginning to embrace trees as critical infrastructure in urban areas. Neighborhoods with tree cover are significantly cooler than exposed areas known as “heat islands,” which can affect human health and utility bills. Urban forests absorb stormwater runoff, filter pollution from the air and sequester carbon.

As climate change threatens to bring increased heat waves, flooding and severe weather to many communities, some leaders are looking to trees as a potential solution. Some regions have been scrambling to restore urban forests that have been decimated by pests such as the emerald ash borer. And much like foresters in the Evergreen State, they may suddenly have more funding to help those efforts take root.

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law this month by President Joe Biden, includes $1.5 billion for the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, which supports efforts ranging from big cities to small communities. Agency leaders say the funding, which will be allotted through competitive grants, will be focused on reaching neighborhoods that lack green infrastructure and are bearing the brunt of climate change.

How prepared are US cities to implement the Justice40 Initiative?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

After surveying city leaders pursuing new federal environmental justice funding, here are their challenges — and ways to overcome them.

The blueprint we already have for building a resilient, green economy

Read the full story at Governing.

The biggest federal climate, clean energy and environmental justice commitment in history is an unprecedented opportunity. The ideas contained in cities’ and companies’ environmental disclosures are a treasure trove to guide policymakers.

Your local park has a hidden talent: helping fight climate change

Read the full story from NPR.

City parks are crucial precisely because they are mundane. Their accessibility is what gives them their power. There are about 2 million acres of public parkland in the 100 largest cities in the United States, according to the Trust for Public Land.

All that parkland helps protect millions of Americans from the effects of global warming. Pools and splash pads offer a place to cool off on dangerously hot days. Trees provide shade, pull carbon dioxide out of the air and even lower the temperature in nearby neighborhoods. Marshes, ponds and meadows soak up water when it rains to help keep roads and homes dry.

America’s summer of floods: What cities can learn from today’s climate crises to prepare for tomorrow’s

Flash flooding made a mess in Dallas in August 2022. AP Photo/LM Otero

by Richard B. (Ricky) Rood, University of Michigan

Powerful storms across the South, following flash floods in Dallas, Death Valley, St. Louis, Yellowstone and Appalachia, have left cities across the U.S. questioning their own security in a warming climate.

Dallas was hit with nearly 15 inches of rain that turned roads into rivers and poured into homes starting Aug. 21, 2022. Neighborhoods in Jackson, Mississippi, were inundated a few days later as the Pearl River rose and a water treatment plant breakdown left the city without clean drinking water. In late July, extreme storms struck the mountains of eastern Kentucky, sending rivers sweeping through valley towns and triggering mudslides that killed more than three dozen people.

Floods are complex events, and they are about more than just heavy rain. Each community has its own unique geography and climate that can exacerbate flooding, so preparing to deal with future floods has to be tailored to the community.

I work with a center at the University of Michigan that helps communities turn climate knowledge into projects that can reduce the harm of future climate disasters. The recent floods provide case studies that can help cities everywhere manage the increasing risk.

Houses in a steep valley are flooded to their rooflines with muddy water.
Extreme storms in mountainous regions like eastern Kentucky can quickly funnel floodwater into valleys, creating different hazards than flatter cities would face from the same storm. Arden S. Barnes/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Flood risks are rising

The first thing the recent floods tell us is that the climate is changing.

In the past, it might have made sense to consider a flood a rare and random event – communities could just build back. But the statistical distribution of weather events and natural disasters is shifting.

What might have been a 1-in-500-year event may become a 1-in-100-year event, on the way to becoming a 1-in-50-year event. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 delivered Houston’s third 500-year flood in the span of three years. Ellicott City, Maryland saw catastrophic floods in 2016 and 2018, and the town flooded again in June 2022.

Basic physics points to the rising risks ahead: Global greenhouse gas emissions are increasing global average temperatures. Warming leads to increasing precipitation and more intense downpours, and this increases flood potential.

Communities aren’t prepared

Recent floods are revealing vulnerabilities in how communities are designed and managed.

Pavement is a major contributor to urban flooding, because water cannot be absorbed and it runs off quickly. Similarly, after a forest fire or extended drought, water runs off of soil rather than soaking in. This can overwhelm drainage systems and pile up debris that can clog pipes and culverts.

Failures in maintaining infrastructure, such as levees and storm drains, are a common contributor to flooding.

If the infrastructure is well designed and maintained, flood damage can be greatly reduced. However, increasingly, researchers have found that the engineering specifications for drainage pipes and other infrastructure are no longer adequate for the increasing severity of storms and amounts of precipitation. This can lead to roads being washed out and communities being cut off.

Four maps show how risk of extreme precipitation increased in some regions, particularly the Northeast, and projections of increasing rainfall in the East in the coming decades.
Even in a future with low greenhouse gas emissions, extreme precipitation events will be more likely in parts of the U.S. National Climate Assessment 2018

The increasing risks affect not only engineering standards, but zoning laws that govern where homes can be built and building codes that describe minimum standards for safety, as well as permitting and environmental regulations.

By addressing these issues now, communities can anticipate and avoid damage rather than only reacting when it’s too late.

Four lessons from case studies

The many effects associated with flooding show why a holistic approach to planning for climate change is necessary, and what communities can learn from one another. For example, case studies show that:

A man in a boat peers under sheeting along a level. The river side is higher than the dry side across the levee.
A crew inspects a levee constructed around a medical center to hold back floodwater from the Mississippi River in Vidalia, La., in 2011. Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • It is difficult for an individual or a community to take on even the technical aspects of flood preparation alone – there is too much interconnectedness. Protective measures like levees or channels might protect one neighborhood but worsen the flood risk downstream. Planners should identify the appropriate scale, such as the entire drainage basin of a creek or river, and form important relationships early in the planning process.
  • Natural disasters and the ways communities respond to them can also amplify disparities in wealth and resources. Social justice and ethical considerations need to be brought into planning at the beginning.

Scenarios: How to manage complexity

In the communities that my colleagues and I have worked with through the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessment center, we have found an increasing awareness of floods and, more generally, the challenges of a warming climate.

Many communities have some capacity to deal with weather-related hazards, but they realize that past practices will not be adequate in the future.

A man stands next to a long metal door that opens from the ground and is part of a flood control system for the building behind him.
Tim Edwards, facility manager for the National Archives, with the flood control gate system that kept a 2019 storm from flooding the building in Washington, DC. Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

We have found that by focusing on vulnerabilities, discussions about future climate risk become more real. Communities start to recognize the interconnectedness of zoning, storm drains and parks, for example, and the value of clearing of debris from stream beds. They also see the importance of engaging regional stakeholders to avoid fragmented and ineffective adaptation responses.

We use scenario planning to help officials examine several plausible climate futures as they develop strategies to deal with specific management challenges. Examining case studies and past floods provides a way to consider future flooding events from an experience base of known community vulnerabilities.

In most exercises I have participated in, local officials’ instinct is to protect property and persist without changing where people live. However, in many cases, that might only buy time before people will have little option but to move. Scenario planning can bring focus to these difficult choices and help individuals and communities gain control over the effects of climate change.

This article was updated Aug. 26, 2022, with flooding in Mississippi.

Richard B. (Ricky) Rood, Professor of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering and School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Enhancing the city’s role as a carbon sink: the San Francisco experience

Read the full story in Canadian Architect.

What is a “carbon sink,” and how can it help us fight climate change? Carbon sinks act like sponges that soak up more carbon from the atmosphere than they release. We define the process by which we remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as “carbon sequestration.” The most effective carbon sinks use our natural systems (i.e., forests, wetlands, agricultural lands and coastal ecosystems), but buildings also play an essential role. To achieve net-zero by 2040, we need to consider carbon sinks as a means to amplify our efforts to reduce emissions, and we need to measure the efficacy of carbon sinks because good data supports meaningful policy and design.

Innovative partnerships bring community solar to low-income households in the US

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Over the last 15 years, community solar in the United States has grown dramatically: Installed community solar capacity increased almost 700 percent between 2006 and 2019.

But these gains have not always translated into access for low- and moderate-income (LMI) customers. To support LMI participation in the clean energy economy and broader uptake of community solar, the development of catalytic partnerships — dynamic relationships that link utilities, non-profits, financial institutions, developers and other stakeholders to ease financial impediments — will be critical.