May 9, 2022
Maps have helped people navigate the world for thousands of years, showing us where we want to go and how to get there. The new Greenlink Equity Map, or GEM 2.0, serves the same purpose. The state-of-the-art mapping tool tells a dynamic story about how energy decisions affect quality of life in communities around the country, and guides them towards cleaner, low-carbon options to ensure a healthier, more just world.
“People across the U.S. experience large variations in how policies affect health, housing and climate,” says Jellie Duckworth, Greenlink Analytics GEM Strategic Development Manager. “Being able to see the distribution of burdens across communities, especially for the people most affected by climate change but who contribute least to the problem, serves as a starting point for charting a new course. That’s the power of GEM 2.0.”
Like any map, GEM helps take people from point A to B. Over 180 cities and eight states across the U.S. already have goals to power their communities with 100 percent renewable energy to avoid the most harmful effects of climate change. These commitments are the first step in a longer journey to the clean energy transition.
Unfortunately, historically marginalized communities tend to bear the brunt of climate change. On the ground, this looks like higher asthma rates, a larger percentage of income spent on electricity and gas bills, less efficient homes, more pollution, warmer neighborhoods, and limited transportation options. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions will help mitigate these outsized burdens and transform communities for the better.
Take the City of Atlanta, for example, which used the tool to understand which neighborhoods bear the weight of disproportionate energy bills. The information helped create policies that strategically funnel funds into energy improvements and weatherization, which also helped the city make strides towards being powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.
GEM 2.0 will enable any city, community-based organization, or state to dive even deeper into the challenges and opportunities climate change presents in their communities. These will include variations in tree cover, transportation burden, and temperature variation within cities (aka urban heat islands).
“Heat islands contribute to increased energy bills, health issues, and hotter temperatures, often experienced in some neighborhoods more than others,” says Greenlink Data Scientist Sharanya Madhavan. “When combining heat and tree canopy data with other indicators in GEM, we can understand who within our cities is at higher risk of extreme heat and set out to alleviate these heat related burdens.”
One of the tool’s most requested innovations is the ability to create an equity index, or grading system so governments and communities can rate progress on energy burden, asthma rates, affordability of housing, or other equity issues. This technology is being piloted in 2022. The map also updates data for almost all of the existing 37 equity measures for 2019 and expands data tracking back to 2013 so people can see how local conditions change over time.
The upshot is that robust data helps spur strong policies for our communities, environment, and health. So, grab our new map, which goes live May 23, 2002, and start your journey towards clean energy for all.