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Miami: Center Equity in Addressing Heat Risk

Extreme heat is dangerous to everyone, but children, the elderly, outdoor workers, communities of color, and pregnant people face higher risk and need protection. 

MIAMI, FL – Heat is a justice issue.  Public awareness, labor protections, and improved access to cooling resources are all needed, a coalition of health professionals, researchers, and NGOs said, leading up to National Heat Awareness Day on May 28. The coalition is calling on local, state, and federal officials to protect vulnerable populations against increasing extreme heat exposure.

If you are interested in covering heat as a justice issue, below is a list of events, experts, and resources for your story.   


What: Shading Dade Heat Sensor Deployment 

When: Monday May 24 at 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. 

Who: Shading Dade: Catalyst Miami + FIU’s Sea Level Solutions Center in the Institute of Environment + FIU’s Department of Journalism and Media + University of Miami

Where: Legion Park at 6447 NE 7th Avenue, Miami, FL 33138 

About: Shading Dade is a citizen science project that uses dime-sized heat sensors called “iButtons” to record temperatures at specific locations, such as bus stops, across Miami-Dade County. Participants will convene at a City of Miami park to meet their teams, receive instruction on the deployment protocols, and pick up temperature sensors. After picking up sensors, participants will fan out across Miami-Dade County to deploy sensors in designated locations. Sensors were first deployed in 2018 by researchers and the work continues this week with a new batch of sensors to be deployed by Shading Dade Ambassadors. To see the existing sensor data click here.  

>>> To contact Shading Dade, email [email protected], or Sign Up for Details.  


Miami’s Urban Heat Research Group (UHRG)

  • Miami’s Urban Heat Research Group (UHRG) is composed of local non-profits, government staff, and community leaders, as well as faculty and student researchers from Florida International University and University of Miami. Through monthly meetings, the group comes together to address the growing issue of heat, data and studies centered around this, and initiatives that push towards tackling the issue on the fronts of both the environment and public health. (Troxler, Clement, Mach, Obeysekara, Bhat)
    >>>>  To contact the researchers at UHRG, contact [email protected].   To see a list of heat-related student research projects, scroll down.  

The Miami Dade Women’s Fund:  Pregnant Women Face Higher Risk  

  • Marya Meyer, Interim Executive Director:  “We are collaborating with the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County and community partners to raise awareness that pregnant people are at greater risk of suffering adverse effects of extreme heat. Heat exposure is linked to higher rates of premature birth (climbing in Miami Dade, and far higher for black and brown mothers), linked to greater risk of infant mortality and lifelong health consequences.” 

On Friday, May 28 The Women’s Fund Miami-Dade, in partnership with City and County officials, will hold a press conference to launch the beginning of the heat and pregnancy health outdoor public awareness campaign on National Heat Awareness Day.

>>>> To learn more, contact Viviana Alvarado Pacheco at The Women's Fund Miami-Dade at [email protected] or 757-206-3363.

Miami Climate Health & Equity Coalition (MCHEC):  We need community-led solutions to address heat in an equitable way.     

  • Mayra Cruz, MPH, Climate Justice Director, Catalyst, Miami: Across the US, poorer neighborhoods, often where communities of color live, are much hotter than whiter, richer neighborhoods. Wealthier neighborhoods tend to be lusher with fewer roads and big buildings, as well as more cooling greenspace. These residents are also more likely to be able to afford AC and better-quality housing that protects against heat. “The same marginalized communities that see greater rates of chronic illnesses and poverty are also those that are hotter,” Mayra said. “Poorer families have less cash to spend on AC and other ways to keep cool.”

    >>>> To Interview Mayra Cruz at Catalyst, or talk to front-line communities, contact her at 786-527-2573. 

Florida Clinicians for Climate Action (FCCA):  Center Equity in Climate-Health Solutions  

  • Dr. Cheryl Holder, Founding Co-Chair, said, “Most of my patients are working at the lowest tiers of South Florida’s thriving agriculture, construction, hospitality and health care industries.” Some people are more vulnerable to heat than others. Older people, people with health conditions such as respiratory or circulatory problems and people taking certain medications, (e.g., antidepressants,) are more likely to experience heat-related illnesses. We must look at solutions with an equity lens.  Programs that help low-income people have access to cooling will improve social determinants of health. 

    >>>> To Interview Dr. Cheryl Holder, call Melissa Baldwin at 727-743-3778  

WeCount: Outdoor Workers Deserve Access to Shade, Rest, Water  

  • Oscar Londoño, Executive Director, WeCount!:  Florida’s outdoor workers in agriculture, day labor, and construction will increasingly be at high risk of experiencing the “silent killer” of heat-related illness. “Outdoor workers perform essential work that drives our economy, unfortunately, they do not have a federal or state standard to protect them from heat at the workplace.” Unlike other states, Florida has no heat standard to provide outdoor workers with access to heat stress education, water, shade, and rest breaks.  The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has recommended better labor protections against heat for American workers for decades. WeCount! launched a local campaign, “Que Calor!” to talk about the risk of extreme heat faced by outdoor workers.

>>> To Contact WeCount!, call Oscar Londoño at 786-342-9515. 


Florida International University (FIU) 

To interview faculty or students at FIU, contact Candice Allouch, Program Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships, FIU Institute of Environment, an FIU Preeminent Program at 305-919-4121 or [email protected], or Chrystian Tejedor  at [email protected]


  • Jayantha Obeysekera is a Research Professor and Director of the Sea Level Solutions Center in the FIU Institute of Environment. He can speak to sea level rise and adaptation. Obeysekera previously served as chief modeler at the South Florida Water Management District, where he had a leading role in modeling of the Everglades and Kissimmee River and Everglades restoration projects. He was co-author of the sea level rise projections report published by NOAA for the National Climate Assessment. He also co-authored a report on regional sea level projections for Department of Defense facilities across the globe.
  • Christopher Baraloto is a Professor and Director of the FIU Institute of Environment’s Land and Biodiversity division. He leads the Grove ReLeaf citizen science project which aims at understanding the canopy composition of Miami, particularly in the neighborhood of Coconut Grove. It focuses on the eco-benefits of trees, such as shade. He also leads research on the impact that global climate change has on terrestrial ecosystems, biodiversity and forest management.


  • Meenakshi Chabba Jerath is a Ph.D. candidate at Florida International University’s Department of Earth and Environment and Extreme Events Institute. Her research will examine the perception of heat risk and the differential heat stress impacts on South Florida residents’ health, subjective well being, daily life, and work productivity. Her work will further investigate South Florida farm workers’ coping strategies for extreme heat and residents’ adaptive preferences regarding nature-based solutions

University of Miami  

To interview experts at University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, contact Diana Udel at [email protected] or 786-256-4446.  


  • Amy Clement is a Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. She is an expert in climate modeling and in her research, she strives to understand the mechanisms of past, present, and future climate change.

Abess Center Student Research Affiliates  

  • Lynée Turek-Hankins is a second-year Ph.D. student in Environmental Science & Policy at the University of Miami’s Abess Center. She researches how the built environment, housing, and energy influence extreme heat exposure and opportunities for equitable adaptation among frontline communities. Next spring she will be working on a citizen science research collaborative to document indoor heat exposure among vulnerable households in Miami. If you live in a household with limited air conditioning usage or face energy insecurity and are interested in participating in this study, you can reach out to her at [email protected]. (
  • Nkosi Muse is a first-year Environmental Science and Policy Ph.D. student. His work involves using mixed methods to identify areas, communities, and populations that are most exposed to climate hazards—especially extreme heat. This work is key in informing and furthering climate resilience research, as well as advocating for inclusive and equitable policy. (                               
    >>>> To interview, contact Nkosi at [email protected]

Applied Climatologists

  • Laurence S. Kalkstein, Ph.D. is the President, Applied Climatologists, Inc. which is a research lab that is developing heat/health warning systems around the world to notify local weather service offices when the weather is dangerous enough to cause negative health outcomes.
    >>>> To interview Dr. Kalkstein, call  302-584-5731 or email [email protected].  

Heat is the Number One Weather-Related Killer  

Heat kills more people than other weather-related events, and official numbers are likely underestimated. In 2020 the health journal The Lancet reported that heat related deaths for older people in the US almost doubled in the past two decades, hitting a high of some 19,000 deaths in 2018. 

Future Heat Predictions for the Miami Area are Startlingly Bad

The non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists “Killer Heat” report shows that while Miami Dade County currently experiences around 41 days a year that “feel like” 100°F, residents will experience 134 such days by mid-century if current emissions continue, and 115 even if bold action is taken to cut heat-trapping carbon emissions. Climate Central, an organization providing information about climate impacts in the US, has made similarly dire predictions. Everyone is at risk of heat-related illnesses and especially with US spikes in average daytime and nighttime temperatures, yearly highs and the number and severity of heat waves.

Miami-Dade County’s Chief Heat Officer is A Move In The Right Direction 

Miami-Dade County’s newly formed position of Chief Heat Officer and the associated heat task force is a great step. Another important improvement was in March the Miami Division of Emergency Management updated its extreme heat dangers webpage to include a broader range of vulnerable populations, including pregnant people (see here for a resource on why heat is a reproductive justice issue in the US), outdoor workers and noted inequities in risk between neighborhoods.

More Government Action is Needed to Protect the Most Vulnerable 

Weatherization and cooling subsidies should be more readily accessible and more generous. More attention must be paid to raising awareness about heat-related illnesses and who is most vulnerable. Planning for interventions, such as tree planting and placement of cooling centers should be designed with equity and the needs of the most vulnerable communities in mind.

This year, the Florida Legislature passed a bipartisan Resilience bill to combat sea level rise. Unfortunately, the legislation raids the affordable housing fund, and it does nothing to address heat, or to get to the root of the problem.  Fortunately, local Counties like Miami-Dade are taking proactive action through Resilient 305.  Comprehensive action is required at the state, federal, and international levels to keep greenhouse gas emissions within safe limits.  

Media Contacts:

To interview Shading Dade citizen scientists, contact Alyssa Hernandez at [email protected]

To interview experts at Florida International University, contact Candice Allouch, at 305-919-4121 or [email protected], or Chrystian Tejedor  at [email protected].

To interview experts at University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, contact Diana Udel at [email protected] or 786-256-4446.  

To interview clinicians, including, Dr. Cheryl Holder with Florida Clinicians for Climate Action,  call Melissa Baldwin at 727-743-3778  or email [email protected].  

To Interview farmworkers, contact Oscar Londoño at WeCount! at 786-342-9515.

To Interview front-line communities, contact Mayra Cruz at Catalyst Miami at 786-527-2573. 

To interview human rights advocates regarding maternal health in the climate crisis, contact Amanda Klasing at Human Rights Watch at  [email protected]g or 646-427-5113. 





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