Our Climate Research

Why this Research Matters

With new alarming reporting from international agencies and worsening wildfire, drought, heat, and ozone conditions in Colorado, we published our research in an effort to raise awareness among Coloradans on the risks climate change poses to our communities, shed light on our ability to avert the worst of the climate crisis, and provide policymakers with tools to make informed and equitable decisions on state climate and economic policy.

View our Original Climate Research

Our Methodology

In this study, we first ranked census tracts based on their exposure to four climate change impacts: extreme heat, air pollution, wildfires, and drought.

We used climate change projections under two emission scenarios: moderate-emission (RCP 4.5) and high-emission (RCP 8.5) by mid-century (2050).

The Social Vulnerability Index

Different communities might be exposed to the same climate impacts, but individuals and communities are different in their access to resources to prepare for, cope with, and recover from hazardous impacts of climate change. Socioeconomic status, health, and demographic factors can impact the preparedness and resilience of communities in the face of such events. These factors are known as social vulnerability. To determine the ability for Colorado communities to be resilient to climate change, we used a modified version of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “social vulnerability index” (SVI) that takes into account a combination of demographic, socioeconomic, and health variables. The SVI indicates the relative threat to every census tract.

The social vulnerability index (SVI) is composed of economic, social and demographic, and health variables and assigns a number between 0 and 1 to each census tract. 0 indicates lowest exposure to risk (lightest color) and 1 indicates the highest (darkest color). The map shows rankings for Colorado’s census tracts—small geographic regions used for the US census—using a modified version of an index used by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Zoom in to see the index in your census tract. You can use the search bar in the upper-left-hand corner of the map to type in your city or county. Hover over it to see the components of the index in that area. You can also highlight multiple census tracts by clicking and dragging with your cursor.

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