Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Epidemiology & Biostatistics


Research has demonstrated that vulnerable populations including disadvantaged populations of color live in areas that may place them at higher risk of exposure to social and environmental hazards. Due to climate change, these populations may experience worse health outcomes and environmental health disparities. The purpose of this project was to explore the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to assess areas that may be vulnerable to climate change across the United States. We employed ArcGIS 9.3 to create vulnerability scores for areas across the country that may be that may be impacted by climate change at the county level in the United States using different social, environmental, and health indicators. We included data on race=ethnicity and socioeconomic status from the US Census. Data on pollution sources and pollution levels were obtained from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Health data were obtained from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the National Vital Statistics System, and the National Center for Health Statistics. We also employed the Moran’s I statistic to assess any significant vulnerability clusters. We found the highest scores for counties in the South particularly the Deep South and in Metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest. Our findings provide insight into the areas of the country that may be vulnerable to the impacts of climate-change. More work needs to be performed to improve the spatial resolution of the maps and include more physical data that will help target areas that need effective climate change related mitigation and adaptation policies.


This is a copy of an article published in Environmental Justice © 2010 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.; Environmental Justice is available online at:

Wilson, S.M., Joseph, L., Richard, R., Williams, E.M.(2010) Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and Vulnerability: An Exploratory Spatial Analysis. Environmental Justice 3(1), 13-19.

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