School of forestry and environmental studies

School Notes: School of the Environment
July/August 2023

Ingrid C. “Indy” Burke |

Humidity may increase urban heat risk

A new study, led by Yale School of the Environment scientists and published in Nature, investigated the combined effect of temperature and humidity on urban heat stress using observational data and an urban climate model calculation. Researchers found that the heat stress burden is dependent on local climate, and that a humidifying effect can erase the cooling benefits that would come from trees and vegetation. As temperatures across the globe reach record-level highs and the proportion of people living in urban settings is expected to rise to 80 percent by 2050, the findings can help lead to further research on how cities can mitigate heat stress, the authors say. Keer Zhang, a doctoral student who was lead author of the study, says she hopes it will promote more research on “optimizing urban shapes and materials for better thermal comforts.”

Disparities in environmental grant-making

The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Sustainability Initiative (JEDSI) at YSE examined nearly $5 billion in grants awarded by 220 foundations in 35 states, and found that several of the largest mainstream environmental organizations received more funding individually than did all the environmental justice organizations combined.

The study’s authors, YSE professor of environmental justice and JEDSI director Dorceta Taylor ’85MFS, ’91PhD, and JEDSI program manager Molly Blondell, surveyed more than 30,000 environmental and public health grants with a mean grant size of $160,650, over a three-year period from 2015 to 2017. They found that organizations’ revenues matter in their ability to attract funding, with more than half of the grant dollars going to organizations with revenues of $20 million or more. Organizations with revenues under $1 million received less than 4 percent of the grant dollars. 

“Some of the communities that are most in need of funding are the ones getting the least funds to do environmental work. We hope that foundations recognize this fact and use our findings to evaluate their grant-making processes and develop more equitable grant-making strategies,” says Taylor. 

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