What is the U.S. Climate Vulnerability Index and why does it matter?
Learn more about the purpose of the CVI in this section.
The U.S. Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) provides the means to understand and visualize how long-standing inequities disadvantage communities across the United States. This mapping tool combines collective environmental, social, economic, and infrastructure impacts that shape a community’s ability to respond and adapt to climate change. Better understanding of the intersection of vulnerability and climate change risks is key to effectively building resilience because it helps define where climate action and investments are needed most.
The CVI’s primary audiences are community advocates, decision makers, and researchers, whose invaluable feedback was instrumental in shaping the development of this tool. In order to bolster funding, policy, and advocacy efforts, the CVI represents communities’ lived experiences, broadly defines vulnerability, and uses data to show disparities.
The magnitude of the climate crisis and urgent need for government funding requires more user-friendly, comprehensive tools to address environmental, climate, and public health injustices.
Pulling in over 180 sets of data to rank more than 70,000 U.S. Census tracts, this tool identifies cumulative drivers of climate vulnerability. To our knowledge of available environmental justice screening and mapping tools, the CVI offers the most thorough and complete compilation of climate impacts at the census tract level and the highest resolution data available nationally – both historical and projected, direct and indirect.
The CVI equips policymakers to effectively prioritize resources and direct interventions, providing a clear roadmap for planners, local governments, federal agencies, research teams, and others to take targeted action.
By identifying areas where investments are most needed, particularly to support underserved communities against climate impacts, the CVI helps ensure resources are channeled to where the greatest benefits can be achieved. This includes decision-making, policy development, resource allocation, preparedness planning, and community-level environmental action planning and advocacy.
The CVI also provides community-based organizations access to local data that can help them take advantage of grant opportunities for reducing disparities in their communities.
Climate change threatens communities by worsening air quality and increasing chronic disease risk, intensifying deadly storms, droughts, and heat waves, reducing economic productivity, and more. Vulnerable groups will suffer most due to greater exposure to climate risks and lower ability to prepare, adapt, and recover from their effects.
With the Biden Administration’s recent legislation – including the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – we have a historic opportunity to tackle decades of systemic neglect in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
The CVI can help level the playing field by directing resources to build resilience and adaptability to climate change in the places that need it most.