WASHINGTON, DC—Resources for the Future (RFF) today released a new installment of Resources Radio: “AC/DC: Unequal Access to Air Conditioning, with Kelly T. Sanders.”
In this episode, host Daniel Raimi talks with Kelly T. Sanders, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California. Sanders summarizes her research into how minority and low-income communities in the United States disproportionately lack access to air conditioning, which can be fatal in the summer months. As climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to intensify these inequalities, Sanders discusses how policymakers can develop innovative solutions to ensure that access to cool air does not come at undue cost for those in need.
Notable quotes from the podcast:
- Lack of air conditioning has devastating impacts on marginalized communities: “Across the United States, about 87 percent of our households do have access to air conditioning, but it's typically the most vulnerable—minority communities, communities of color—that don't have access. And … at the national level, we know that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 600 people in the United States die from extreme heat events every year on average. That's actually more deaths than storms, floods, and lightning combined.” (7:00)
- COVID-19 makes managing heat waves harder: “[It] is going to be a huge challenge for cities and other communities to think about how, on one hand, do you protect people that don't have access to air conditioning from these extreme heat events, while also trying to prevent the spread of COVID? So, this is really a coupled challenge that we are seeing some response to [already], but it's going to be a pretty big deal as we move into the hot months of July and August.” (23:43)
- Planning ahead to protect the vulnerable from rising temperatures: “We look at [climate change] as an environmental problem, or a problem for sustainability—but just like COVID-19, it's really going to challenge every element of our society. We really have to get out ahead of it and think about how we are going to protect our most vulnerable communities from some of the largest economic consequences of climate change. How do we protect vulnerable communities from bigger hurricanes, more wildfires, and more extreme heat events?” (27:25)
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