Mapping a threat: Climate change’s deadly summer heat may deepen disparities in Chicago
Census estimates indicate that more than 300,000 people live in areas where average summer surface temperatures are hotter than 90% of the rest of Chicago, or an estimated 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the city average. Latino residents disproportionately shoulder the burden of Chicago’s heat disparities, the data show, while white residents disproportionately benefit from living in areas with the coolest average temperatures.
The local aphorism that it’s “cooler by the lake” can’t fully explain these disparities. Certain inland neighborhoods, such as Ukrainian Village and Logan Square, have tended to be cooler than some communities closer to Lake Michigan, including East Pilsen and Chinatown. Urban planning decisions, such as industrial zoning, play a large role in creating and sustaining cities’ hotter areas, climate experts note.
A Tribune analysis found that cooler areas with more white residents have far more parks and bus shelters — amenities that provide relief from heat — than areas with the hottest average surface temperatures and more members of minority groups. And substantial portions of Chicago’s most vulnerable communities can’t readily access any public cooling resource, Boston University researchers found.
With intense weather events growing in frequency, many cities across the U.S. are ramping up interventions to protect vulnerable residents. Los Angeles, for example, identified thousands of locations for new bus shelters to ensure 75% of commuters have access to shade. Boston provided hundreds of air conditioners to high-risk residents who live in local heat islands. New York City mandated new, more comprehensive studies on local heat deaths.