Precarious Infrastructure: An analysis of equity gaps in perceptions of and responses to extreme heat events & wildfires in California

First name: 
Last name: 
Class Year: 
Jennifer Marlon
Essay Abstract: 
Extreme heat waves and wildfires have grown in intensity and frequency in California, and these hazards are expected to continue to escalate. Climate change, unsustainable development in fire-prone areas, and insufficient support for individual and community mitigation has disproportionately burdened populations like older adults, low-income residents, and renters. In this paper, I use precarious infrastructure as a guiding framework to describe the multifaceted ways vulnerability and exposure to wildfire and extreme heat events are shaped by sociodemographic and geographic differences. I analyze data from the Climate Change in the American Mind survey to understand if respondents appropriately perceive their vulnerability to heat and wildfire. This data exploration suggests that some of the populations that are most vulnerable to extreme heat and wildfires may not have access to the infrastructure or information they need to protect their health. Lastly, I propose housing and land-use policy interventions to reduce the economic and community impacts of these extreme weather events. Preventative steps like expanding outreach efforts and funding adaptation programs, limiting development in high-risk areas, and intentionally including marginalized groups in disaster planning are essential to ensuring a more resilient future.