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Tucson Stakeholder Workshop Report: CLIMATE AND POVERTY IN THE SOUTHWEST
Tucson Stakeholder Workshop Report:
CLIMATE AND POVERTY IN THE SOUTHWEST
Research Project funded by NOAA National Climate Assessment program
Institute of the Environment, Marshall 531 - The University of Arizona
Friday, April 29th, 2011
We are pleased to present this summary of the workshop held on April 29, 2011 with University of Arizona climate researchers, local government agencies and non-profit organizations in southern Arizona to discuss CLIMATE AND POVERTY IN THE SOUTHWEST. The aim of this workshop was to facilitate an important stakeholder dialogue and feedback regarding the issues connecting climate, poverty, and vulnerability in the Southwest region of the United States and to identify vulnerable areas and priorities for future research and collaboration. Seventeen different agencies were represented at the workshop.
The workshop forms part of a research project funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climate Assessment program to explore the nexus between climate and poverty in the Southwest. The purpose of this research is to examine the relationship between current climate variability and vulnerable populations (e.g., the elderly, populations who work outdoors, low-income neighborhoods, college students) in the Southwest and how the projected impacts of climate change might exacerbate many of these factors over the next decade. Furthermore, as governments and other actors implement climate mitigation and adaptation policy, there are risks that poorer groups may be left out or adversely affected by policies. Our objective is to work with stakeholder organizations to understand and document the linkage between climate and poverty in the southwestern U.S. and develop an understanding of adaptive strategies that may be appropriate to reduce the multiple climate-related vulnerabilities faced by low-income populations.
Five climate researchers from the University of Arizona gave a series of presentations in the first half of the workshop, covering topics that included an overview of the climate and poverty research project and current findings; climate variability and climate change in the Southwest; climate and public health in the Southwest; and the link between energy and poverty in the Southwest (defined as Arizona and New Mexico) (see Annex A for the full workshop program). The second half of the day was spent in an extended discussion and brainstorming session with stakeholders regarding the critical issues facing low-income and vulnerable populations in Southern Arizona (see Annex B for a list of participating stakeholder organizations).
Highlights from the Workshop Presentations:
Overview of the National Assessment Process, Diana Liverman (Project Co-Principal Investigator), Regents’ Professor of Geography and Development and Co-Director Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona (UA)
- To meet the requirements of the Global Change Research Act, the 2013 National Climate Assessment will focus on analyzing the impacts of climate change and how it will affect the future.
- The University of Arizona is a leader in climate research. The Climate and Poverty in the Southwest study, funded by NOAA, aims to integrate the social justice component to the climate work being produced at the university.
Climate Variability and Climate Change in the Southwest, Daniel Ferguson, Program Director, Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS)
- While the National Climate Assessment covers the nation, the Regional Integrated Science and Assessment (RISA) program (of which CLIMAS is one) focuses on specific regions of the United States. CLIMAS focuses on the southwest region, including Arizona and New Mexico.
- The impacts of climate change are being felt throughout the world already. 2005 and 2010 were tied for the warmest year in NASA’s 131-year record, with 2000-2010 being the warmest decade. Declining sea ice and permafrost, rising sea levels and increasing sea temperatures are resulting in coastal erosion, more frequent storms and the displacement of people.
- Climate change indicators and challenges specific to the southwest include: increased dirt migration (creating public hazard and decreasing snow pack stability); more rain and less snow; drought and warming; increased pests, droughts and fire; decreased Colorado River flow & over-allocated water resources.
- Development, agriculture, ranching, energy use, and transportation all contribute to climate change. “Climate change is happening because it is what we eat and how we live.”
- CLIMAS is developing a series of “Climate Boot Camps” to educate local policy-makers on how to understand and communicate climate change issues.
Climate and Public Health: Results from Research on Mosquito Spread and Vectors.
Andrew Comrie (CLIMAS Co-PI). Associate Vice President for Research & Dean of the Graduate College, UA.
- The West Nile virus was first observed in the U.S. in 1999 and is now endemic.
- Mosquitos carrying the virus can infect humans. Mosquito life cycles are very sensitive to changes in temperature and water availability and generally increase under warmer contexts.
- The timing and frequency of rainfall is critical to the mosquito life cycle. The same amount of water, but arriving in more frequent intervals can produce more pools of stagnant water that facilitate the reproduction of mosquitos.
- Researchers at the UA are building dynamic process models to understand the intersections between mosquito life stages, infection vectors, and climate factors to understand how climate affects mosquito populations and infection rates.
- Access to air-conditioning may be an important factor. If poorer people rely more on open windows for cooling, they could be at risk for increased exposure to infected mosquitos. However, wealthier people may live in areas with more plants and humidity, conditions that are favorable to mosquito populations.
Making the Link between Energy and Poverty, Ardeth Barnhart, Program Director, Solar and Renewable Energy, UA Institute of the Environment
- Energy poverty refers to households that spend 10% or more of their income on fuel. Poor insulation, inefficient appliances, high energy prices and lack of access all contribute to energy poverty.
- Population growth causes increases in peak load electricity demand. That is, the most expensive energy to produce coincides with the hottest part of the day or year when demand is highest.
- High energy bills correlates with high housing costs. Hence, energy bills affect the affordability of housing.
- The need for financial aid to support low-income Arizonans in paying their energy bills greatly outweighs available funding.
- The Solar and Renewable Energy program at the Institute of the Environment is working with economists and engineers to produce off-grid solar desalinization and electrification units to increase the accessibility to affordable, clean water and electricity to the Navajo Nation.
Coming to Terms with the Climate and Poverty Relationship: Defining Some Key Issues for Consideration—Margaret Wilder (Climate and Poverty Project PI, CLIMAS Co-PI),Associate Professor, L. American Studies & School of Geography and Development, UA
- Vulnerability refers to exposure to a hazard and the risk associated with that exposure, based on planning, resources and capacity to respond. Examples of such hazards include: droughts, flash floods, hot and cold temperature extremes.
- Adaptive Capacity is the capacity to respond dynamically over time to make needed changes to reduce vulnerability. Examples include resources such as money and insurance, transportation, knowledge and information, social networks, social capacity and leadership.
- Research has demonstrated that certain populations (e.g. the elderly; very young; low-income poor; people of color) may be at greater risk to the impacts of climate change (e.g. heat waves; increased costs of basic services; lack of insurance) (See The Climate Gap, Morello-Frosch et al 2009)
- Census data indicates that the Southwestern U.S. (Arizona and New Mexico) have significant percentages of vulnerable populations, with high indices of poverty, elderly, children and people of Hispanic/Latino origin. In Arizona, female heads of households with no husband present and with children under 18 are the poorest of the poor.
- Heat-related exposure represents a health vulnerability for migrants, homeless and residents, especially the elderly.
Discussion Questions included:
- Have we identified the right populations as vulnerable to climate factors? Who have we missed?
- What are the main ways that vulnerable populations in southern AZ are affected by climate factors? Who is vulnerable and what are they vulnerable to?
- What strategies or policies might help to reduce these vulnerabilities? At what scale or level of governance would interventions be most effective?
- What are the goals & means of achieving climate justice in southern Arizona?
- Are there things the climate research groups at UA might offer local organizations (e.g. particular climate information, projections, informative workshops)?
- At what scale should we be researching climate-poverty issues?
Key Point and Comments generated in the Stakeholder Discussion:
- Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in the number of undocumented women (some pregnant) and children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Increased security and deportation rates are producing an influx of people moving to the border region to be near deported family members.
- There is a need for a legal guest worker program and comprehensive immigration reform. Children of undocumented immigrants that are eligible for federal resources aren't getting them because of fear of legal repercussions.
- Transnational economic processes are a driver of increased crime and social vulnerability (e.g. reduced tourism in Mexico results in higher levels of unemployment and poverty). This can increase migration through the Sonora-Arizona desert where extreme temperatures contribute to migrant deaths each year.
- Climate variability and climate change have implications for lifestyle options (e.g. modes of transportation) and health (e.g. asthma).
- Better programs are needed to educate the public about the benefits to the environment and personal health fromindividual and social behavioral changes (e.g. walking reduces air pollution; community gardening increases nutritional diet). Obesity and diabetes are linked to the non-localized food system and inactivity.
- There is a need to integrate emergency preparedness for weather and/or climatic events that impact health and mobility.
- There is currently insufficient information regarding the definition and location of vulnerable populations (e.g. people on oxygen or who are immobile). The lack of necessary data on vulnerable populations could impede emergency response in case of a climate-related risk or hazard (such as an extreme heat wave, a hard freeze, or a dangerous storm).
- The current emergency response system may be inadequate to deal with certain kinds of extreme weather events (for example, the location of cooling stations during heat waves). Issues related to health and climate should be integrated into the city's emergency response system.
Indicators and Metrics
- Stakeholders commented onthe need for indicators, metrics, and case studies to demonstrate the link between social vulnerabilities and climate-related impacts, in order to influence policy in beneficial ways. Every school system has a free lunch program with public data that can be used as a poverty indicator. Additionally, the Arizona Department of Revenue tracks health care and public assistance users by zip code. Some existing sources of data may be tapped to provide new kinds of information regarding climate-related vulnerability.
Climate Adaptation Planning and Climate-friendly Development
- Adaptive urban planning and development are becoming a central topic in both local and international development.
- Some stakeholders expressed concern that climate-related issues may potentially displace other priority issues, such as unemployment.
- Laws that make it cost prohibitive to build in certain areas such as floodplains are examples of adaptive policy that can help reduce social vulnerabilities to climate hazards.
Communicating Climate Issues to Policymakers and Society
- There is a need to find effective ways of communicating the inter-relationship between climate and social vulnerability to the general population.
- One stakeholder succinctly commented: “If it's a matter of feeding my kids and my health, then climate becomes a real issue instead of being an abstract ‘out there’ concept.”
- There is a need to frame climate-related vulnerability as more of a public health issue and to create a forward-looking vision of how to address it.
Climate-related Vulnerability and Food Systems
- The southwest regional economy is intimately tied to global food markets. For example,the Nogales port-of-entry at the U.S.-Mexico border is the largest port of entry for winter fruits and vegetables from Mexico. The economy of Nogales, Arizona is dependent on produce-packing and shipping. Thus, climate variability can impact the regional economy by affecting jobs that are vulnerable to climate variability. For example, the value of produce imports in Nogales dropped by $124.3 million between October and April of 2011. The sudden hard freeze in the border region in February was the largest contributing factor of this decrease and resulted in corresponding impacts in the food shipment sector.
- The food system in the southwestern U.S. is integrally tied to a transboundary US-Mexico foodshed. Climate issues across the border may impact food availability and employment levels on the U.S.-side, as well.
Building Adaptive Capacity at the Neighborhood Level
- Some groups are working at the neighborhood level to train citizens about how to influence policy. The Project Citizen project, for example, helps teach community members how to monitor and shape public policy affecting their neighborhoods, including the impacts of climate change.
- Neighborhood associations can play and are playing an important role by working within their neighborhoods to create more resilient systems. For example, neighborhoods have been successful in developing a sense of place and community that has led to crime reduction. Similar models might be adapted to building capacity for improved responses in climate-vulnerable areas.
- Insufficient funding limits the ability to build adaptive capacity in vulnerable neighborhoods. Some associations are experimenting with innovative community activities such as establishing a time bank where hours of work can be exchanged.
Affordable and Substandard Housing
- Low-income and minority populations are more likely to live in rental housing rather than own their own homes. Landlords have a disincentive to invest in weatherization and home maintenance. Students compete with low-income populations for affordable housing in the Tucson community, and the number of renters exceeds the number of homeowners.
- Inexpensive housing that lacks weatherization can come with very high energy costs for heating and cooling.
Vulnerable Populations in the Southwest:
- Low socio-economic levels
- Possibly higher vulnerability in Hispanic, African-American, and indigenous neighborhoods
- Students (UA, Pima CC, NMSU)
- Construction workers, agricultural workers, landscapers
- *Refugee Population (Stakeholders suggest that refugees are another potentially vulnerable population, considering that there are over 10,000 refugees in Tucson alone)
Next Steps for Climate and Poverty Research Project:
- Integrate stakeholder feedback into research design
- Begin fieldwork including interviews with stakeholder organization representatives in southern Arizona and southern New Mexico that provide services to vulnerable populations.
- Publish overview of climate and poverty in the southwest
- Develop increased website presence on CLIMAS website for the climate and poverty project, including presentations, updates, articles and events
- Continue building new relationships between climate research community and stakeholder organizations to ensure better fit between stakeholder needs and climate services, and to increase awareness of the need for appropriate climate adaptations for vulnerable populations.
Margaret Wilder (Project PI): email@example.com
Laurel Bellante (Graduate Assistant): firstname.lastname@example.org
Annex A: Workshop Program
POVERTY AND CLIMATE IN THE SOUTHWEST
Marshall Building, Room #531
The University of Arizona - 845 N. Park Ave, Tucson, AZ
Friday, April 29th, 2011 - 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
- 8:30 Coffee and Light Refreshments
- 9:00-9:15 Welcome and Overview, Margaret Wilder,Center for Latin American Studies & School of Geography and Development, CLIMAS Co-PI, University of Arizona
- 9:15-9:30 - Overview of the National Assessment Process, Diana Liverman, Regents’ Professor of Geography and Development and Co-Director Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona
- 9:30-10:00 - Overview of Climate Variability and Climate Change in the Southwest, Daniel Ferguson, Program Director, Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS)
- 10:00-10:30 – Public Health and Climate in the Southwest, Andrew Comrie, Associate Vice President for Research & Dean of the Graduate College, University of Arizona. Climate and Public Health: Results from Research on Mosquito Spread and Vectors.
- 10:30-11:00 – Making the Link between Energy and Poverty, Ardeth Barnhart, Program Director, Solar and Renewable Energy, UA Institute of the Environment
- 11:00 -11:15 – Coffee Break
- 11:15-11:45 – Coming to Terms with the Climate and Poverty Relationship: Defining Some Key Issues for Consideration—Margaret Wilder
- 11:45-12:15 – Open Discussion
- 12:15-1:15 – Lunch (provided) and Keynote Talk by Prof. Celestino Fernandez on his original corrido on heat stress in the border region, “Peligro en el Desierto”
- 1:15-2:30 – Critical Issues Facing Low-Income and Vulnerable Populations in Southern Arizona: Stakeholder Discussion—Moderated by Tracey Osborne, School of Geography and Development
- 2:30 – Closing Comments
Sponsored by Climate Assessment of the Southwest
and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Climate and Poverty in the Southwest
April 29, 2011
Workshop Participants - Institutions:
Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) (IE, UA)
Institute of the Environment (UA)
School of Geography and Development (UA)
Center for Latin American Studies (UA)
Solar and Renewable Energy, Institute of the Environment (UA)
Department of Sociology (UA)
Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW, UA)
Racial Justice Program, YWCA Tucson
United Way of Tucson/Southern Arizona
Community Food Resource Center (Community Food Bank of Tucson)
Maternal and Child Health (Mariposa Community Health Center)
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Lend a Hand
City of Tucson
Climate Change Committee, Tucson (CCC)