Dr. Steeve Coupeau Goes One-on-One with Annie Carforo on Climate Justice
NYIHA MEDIA: What is your current role and what led to that?
Annie Organizer: I am the Climate Justice Campaign Coordinator at WE ACT. I work with the New York policy team and the organizing team to help get members engaged in our policy campaigns. I come from a background in policy organizing and am excited to help advance climate justice bills at the New York City and State levels.
NYIHA MEDIA: What are the 2 distinct types of urban heat island? How do you measure them?
Annie Organizer: At WE ACT, we look at heat vulnerability index, an index created by NY state that takes into account what neighborhoods are hotter than others (some neighborhoods are hotter, like mentioned above, because of a lack of investment in green space and green infrastructure and an overburden of hot surfaces like highways, truck traffic and other infrastructures like peaker plants, sewage treatment plants as well as socio-demographic and health data, data of the population that lives there.
Heat islands are mainly measured via temperature sensors. Formerly red lined neighborhoods (with lower income), typically have less natural cover and hotter surfaces. Surface Heat Islands. These heat islands form because urban surfaces such as roadways, cement, asphalt and rooftops absorb and emit heat to a greater extent than most natural surfaces (like grass, forest, and water etc…). On a warm day with a temperature of 91°F, conventional roofing materials may reach as high as 60°F warmer than air temperatures. Surface heat islands tend to be most intense during the day when the sun is shining.
Atmospheric Heat Islands. These heat islands form as a result of warmer air in urban areas compared to cooler air in outlying areas. Urban areas cool down less at night than less dense areas, causing them to have an overall hotter temperature. Atmospheric heat islands vary much less in intensity than surface heat islands.
NYIHA MEDIA: What criteria do you employ to pinpoint urban risks so cities can prepare for and respond to extreme heat?
Annie Organizer: Many disadvantaged communities are higher on the heat vulnerability index than other neighborhoods. This summer, we did block specific heat monitoring in Northern Manhattan to get a sense of what streets are hotter than others within a “hot” area of town. We use this data and criteria to inform policy and try to target interventions that will help with cooling towards these specific neighborhoods.
NYIHA MEDIA: What are the advantages of an early warning system when cities are dealing with a heat crisis?
Annie Organizer: Preparation is everything. People need to understand that heat is dangerous first and foremost. They need to understand heat related illness and how to identify it. They can prepare themselves by running errands that require them to be outside (grocery shopping, picking up medication etc…) before a heatwave hits. Communities can also set up phone trees so that when a heat wave hits, neighbors can check in on one another, especially vulnerable people who are older, have health conditions or live alone.
The past eight years were the eight hottest ever recorded, says the UN’s World Meteorological Organization. every year since 2016 has been one of the warmest on record. Rising global heating is making extreme weather more severe and more frequent around the world.
People can also learn tips to cool down when it gets really hot (making sure they have a fan that works, cold water, curtains for their windows, etc). As summers get hotter and heat waves get more deadly, it is going to be crucial for people to prepare themselves and take care of themselves when it is dangerously hot.