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Headshot of Sharon Harlan

Affiliated Professor of Health Sciences and Sociology

Bouvé College of Health Sciences

Dr. Harlan’s research explores the human impacts of climate change that are dependent upon people’s positions in social hierarchies, places in built environments of unequal quality, and policies that improve or impede human adaptive capabilities. Focusing on excessive heat and urban water systems as significant and increasingly critical threats to human health and well-being in cities, she studies social systems and landscapes that produce unequal risks for people in neighborhoods divided by social class and race/ethnicity.

She has led multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research and community engagement projects that integrate social theories about the historical production of environmental injustices with data and models from the ecological, geospatial, and health sciences. She is currently conducting research on vulnerability to electrical grid failures and water unaffordability in environmental justice communities in the United States. Her work on coupled natural and human systems has been supported continuously by grants from the National Science Foundation

Dr. Harlan has been an advisor on climate justice and social vulnerability to organizations such as the American Sociological Association, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the Social Science Coordinating Committee of the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program.


View CV




Harlan, S.L., M.J. Sarango, E.A. Mack, T.A. Stephens (2019) “A Survey-Based Assessment of Perceived Flood Risk in Urban Areas of the United States.”  Anthropocene 28: 100217.

Harlan, S.L., P. Chakalian, J. Declet-Barreto, D.M. Hondula, G.D. Jenerette (2019) “Pathways to Climate Justice in a Desert Metropolis.” In People and Climate Change: Vulnerability, Adaptation, and Social Justice, L.M. Reyes and J. Rigg (eds.) Oxford University Press.

Recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Article Award from the US Regional Association of the International Association of Landscape Ecology: Jenerette, G.D., S.L. Harlan, A. Buyantuev, W.L. Stefanov, J. Declet-Barreto, B.L. Ruddell, S.W. Myint, S. Kaplan, X. Li. (2016) “Micro Scale Urban Surface Temperatures Are Related to Land Cover Features and Residential Heat-Related Health Impacts in Phoenix, AZ USA.” Landscape Ecology 31: 745-760.

Harlan, S.L., D.N. Pellow, and J.T. Roberts with S.E. Bell, W.G. Holt, and J. Nagel (2015) “Climate Injustice and Inequality: Insights from Sociology.” Pp. 127-163 in Climate Change and Society: Sociological Perspectives, R.E. Dunlap and R.J. Brulle (eds.) Oxford University Press.

Harlan, S.L., G. Chowell, S. Yang, E. Morales, D.B. Petitti, B.L. Ruddell, D.M. Ruddell. (2014) “Heat-Related Deaths in Hot Cities: Estimating Human Tolerance to High Temperatures.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 11(3):3304-3326. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110303304.










Related Schools & Departments

  • Education

    PhD, 1979, Sociology, Cornell University

  • Contact

  • Address

    RB 316L
    360 Huntington Avenue
    Boston, MA 02115