In 2014, using the State Climate Assessment as a guide, Saint Paul-Ramsey County Public Health decided on the indicators they wanted to evaluate for vulnerability. The health department considered socioeconomic status, age, barriers in communication, mobility, and the number of people who work outside, among others. Land use was then used by the health department as a multiplier to apply the proper weight to each indicator based on if the land was commercial, residential, or vacant.
The health department then analyzed their indicators along with environmental risk factors for extreme heat and poor air quality. The health department wanted to include flooding in their quantitative analysis, however, it had to be excluded due to a lack of flash flood spatial data and digitized mapping of stormwater collection systems. The vulnerability data was then combined with the environmental risk indicators in GIS to pinpoint the geographic areas that would be the most vulnerable. The health department also provided a qualitative analysis on the impacts of changes in precipitation, changing ecologies, and evolving community demographics. They also emphasized the psychological impacts of climate change in the analysis.
To ensure the quality of the report, the health department sent the results to the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Health for a review.
In 2018, the health department completed an update of the 2014 vulnerability assessment, which was an initiative identified in the strategic plan. The data were updated and the health department brought in information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index, which shows communities the relative level of resilience they have when confronted by external stressors to better assess vulnerabilities. In addition to the written document, the report was also presented via an interactive GIS map to present public health vulnerability to climate change in a more accessible way. Additional updates are underway to get the information out to the community and determine what actions can come out of it.
In 2020, the health department began identifying and evaluating climate change adaptation strategies. Going forward the health department will be working to communicate and engage communities about this work to get feedback and help prepare the communities.
The entire project was locally funded through an Environmental Health Division charge on waste collection called the County Environmental Charge. This funding covered the two interns who worked on the assessment and all necessary software costs.
The entire project took approximately two years. Work on the project stalled during the school year when the interns returned to classes. With a team dedicated to the project full-time, Saint Paul-Ramsey County Public Health officials estimate the project would have taken around a year to complete.