Startups join forces to map vulnerability to air pollution
Aclima and UrbanFootprint launch what they call the “first-ever dynamic data solution” that tracks vulnerability to air pollution. The new partnership aims to address the need for data on those most affected by air pollution in the United States.
Data available through this new solution includes UrbanFootprint’s “Community Investment and Impact Index” as well as census block level data on air pollution as collected by Aclima, although the solution works with existing less granular air quality data where hyperlocal data from Aclima is unavailable.
“What I ultimately hope is that it helps build more resilient places,” said UrbanFootprint CEO Joe DiStefano. Government Technology.
Aclima has attracted public sector attention for its data collection methods in recent years. In July, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that Aclima was beginning to collect data in several New York communities.
New York is the second location where UrbanFootprint’s index is used in conjunction with Aclima’s air quality data, the first being in California.
Aclima is also expanding the data it has.
“Aclima is actively collecting data from the West Coast (including Northern and Southern California), Midwest, South, and East Coast (including New York State communities),” said the Aclima CEO Davida Herzl in an email to Government Technology. “As we work with local and state governments and the private sector (including energy utilities), we are accelerating measurement collection and expanding across the United States. global cities, like Dublin and Hamburg, [Germany]thanks to our partnership with Google Street View.
As part of the product launch, the two companies released an analysis of data collected during their first implementation in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The company’s analysis showed that people of color are exposed to 55% more nitrogen dioxide than the region’s white population. Nitrogen dioxide is one of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s “Criteria Air Pollutants” used to monitor air quality.
In addition to racial disparities, the joint analysis found that people with lower incomes and those living in rental accommodations tend to be exposed to higher levels of air pollution.
Asked about air pollution trends, DiStefano said trends vary by location and air pollution is affected by several factors such as geography and topography.
Sacoby Wilson is a professor at the University of Maryland and a member of the Aclima Advisory Board. He believes this tool has the potential to advance climate justice in the country.
“Hopefully, the Community Impact and Investment Index will act as a decision support tool that can help affected residents of communities with environmental justice issues access restorative justice and achieve the benefits they deserve,” he said in a press release Thursday.
While the new offering from Aclima and UrbanFootprint offers more granular data than is currently available, the existing data reflects racial and ethnic disparities.
In April last year, a team of researchers led by Christopher Tessum of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that racial and ethnic minorities are exposed to disproportionately high levels of fine particulate pollution. This type of pollution increases the risk of respiratory irritation, bronchitis, heart disease and premature death.
DiSefano said he expects the data to be most useful to government regulators at the state level, though he anticipates interest from energy utilities and some cities and counties as more federal programs are launched that require targeted interventions based on need.
The Cut Inflation Act includes several grant programs aimed specifically at combating air pollution, including $3 billion to reduce pollution at ports, $236 million for pollution monitoring of air and $50 million to reduce air pollution in schools.
The act also includes $3 billion in block grants aimed at environmental and climate justice. It’s in programs like this that the data provided by the new product will be most useful, according to DiStefano.
“We have literally hundreds of billions of dollars flowing through agencies,” DiStefano said. “The data is very specifically meant to direct this to where it’s needed most.”
This sentiment was also echoed by Herzl, CEO of Aclima.
“As the nation prepares to make historic investments in climate action, it is essential that we prioritize and integrate the needs of communities that have been historically underserved and who are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and pollution. “, she said in a press release Thursday. Release.