Baltimore Area Chosen For DoE Urban Climate Study, Hopes To Increase Equity And Climate Resilience


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BALTIMORE REGION- Starting this month, a team of scientists will study how environmental, atmospheric, and climatic factors influence the Baltimore urban area. The group aims to develop strategies to make the city more equitable and resilient to climate change.

The five-year study is funded by the Department of Energy and is tied to president Biden’s goal of a net-zero carbon economy by 2050. The project looks to develop “Urban Integrated Field Laboratories” in three U.S. cities: Baltimore, Chicago, and Port Arthur-Beaumont, Texas.

The Baltimore lab will be part of the 21st Century Cities Initiative at Johns Hopkins University. It will include scientists, researchers, and climate modeling specialists from Hopkins, Pennsylvania State University, Morgan State University, the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, and more.

These scientists are trying to better understand how large urban areas are impacted by climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution. Once the project has collected pertinent data, it will simulate equity-based adaptation strategies for the city to consider. The goal is to devise a plan to help the Baltimore area deal with pressures from climate change and aid historically underserved communities.

According to Dr. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, the urban labs will advance climate research.

“These Urban IFLs are critical to our efforts to train the next generation of scientists that look like America. The science-based solutions that will flow from these newly funded studies will center the perspectives of minoritized communities,” she said.

Baltimore was chosen for the study due to its massive amount of Urban Sprawl, evident in cities such as Towson, Pikesville, and Parkville. The Baltimore area also has many heat-trapping surfaces and suffers from air quality and pollution issues.

According to the Sierra Club, a national environmental activism group, minorities often suffer the most from climate-related catastrophes.

“They often live in poverty, in parts of cities that are not well taken care of, compared to other parts of cities where wealthier people live in luxury,” the group said.

According to Rachel Baird of Minority Rights Group International, the aftermath of hurricane Katrina illustrates the divide between how climate events impact residents of varying races and income levels.

“The areas hit hardest by the flood were disproportionately non-white. Overall, Blacks and other minority residents made up 58 percent of those whose neighborhoods were flooded, though they encompassed just 45 percent of the metropolitan population.”

As the Urban IFL project commences, the Department of Energy expressed hope for the insights it can bring.

“Belonging, access, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are important in STEM. Simply, they are the right thing to do. We as scientists and decision-makers have the obligation to make climate science – and science as a whole – fair and equitable.”

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