Characterizing vulnerabilities to climate change across the United States. Academic Article uri icon


  • Climate change will cause a range of related risks, including increases in infectious and chronic disease, intensified social and economic stresses, and more frequent extreme weather events. Vulnerable groups will be disproportionately affected due to greater exposure to climate risks and lower ability to prepare, adapt, and recover from their effects. Better understanding of the intersection of vulnerability and climate change risks is required to identify the most important drivers of future climate risks and effectively build resilience and deploy targeted adaptation efforts. Incorporating community stakeholder input, we identified and integrated available public health, social, economic, environmental, and climate data in the United States (U.S.), comprising 184 indicators, to develop a Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) composed of four baseline vulnerabilities (health, social/economic, infrastructure, and environment) and three climate change risks (health, social/economic, extreme events). We find that the vulnerability to and risks from climate change are highly heterogeneous across the U.S. at the census tract scale, and geospatially cluster into complementary areas with similar climate risks but differing baseline vulnerabilities. Our results therefore demonstrate that not only are climate change risks both broadly and variably distributed across the U.S., but also that existing disparities are often further exacerbated by climate change. The CVI thus lays a data-driven, scientific foundation for future research on the intersection of climate change risks with health and other inequalities, while also identifying health impacts of climate change as the greatest research gap. Moreover, given U.S. government initiatives surrounding climate and equity, the CVI can be instrumental in empowering communities and policymakers to better prioritize resources and target interventions, providing a template for addressing local-scale climate and environmental justice globally.

published proceedings

  • Environ Int

altmetric score

  • 5.05

author list (cited authors)

  • Tee Lewis, P. G., Chiu, W. A., Nasser, E., Proville, J., Barone, A., Danforth, C., ... Craft, E.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Tee Lewis, P Grace||Chiu, Weihsueh A||Nasser, Ellu||Proville, Jeremy||Barone, Aurora||Danforth, Cloelle||Kim, Bumsik||Prozzi, Jolanda||Craft, Elena

publication date

  • February 2023