Sharon L. Harlan, PhD
Professor & Department Chair
Department of Health Sciences, Faculty
Office: 316L Robinson Hall
For information and resources regarding returning to campus and COVID-19 please visit the university COVID-19 website
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 affordability and accessibility in environmental justice communities across selected cities in the United States. Her work on coupled natural and human systems has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation on urban vulnerability to climate change, sustainability and water, the Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program, and metropolitan area surveys on environmental attitudes and behaviors. She has served as 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.
PhD., Sociology, Cornell University
M.A., Sociology, Cornell University
B.A., Sociology, Northeastern University
Northeastern Centers & Institutes
Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
Global Resilience Institute
Institutional Affiliations & Appointments
Adjunct Faculty, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University
Senior Sustainability Scientist, Arizona State University
Environmental health, Environmental sociology, Environmental justice, Social impacts of climate change
PHTH 5214 – Environmental Health
Selected Recent Publications
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 (in press) “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., 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.
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.
Selected Public Service
Teaching Climate Change, Inspiring Action. Public symposium co-sponsored with Boston Civic Media, Emerson College Engagement Lab and collaborator Sara Wylie. Northeastern University in March 2017
“People and Environment: Our Heat Habitat.” Chain Reaction, Volume 7, September 2012. A science magazine in print and online for students in grades 4-8 published by the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, Arizona State University. Features the work of scientists on my National Science Foundation Urban Vulnerability to Climate Change project. http://chainreactionkids.org/ (pdf)
Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Extreme Heat – Unseen Threat Burns the Urban Poor” by Sebastien Malo. September 21, 2017. Part of the series on Rising
Heat: A Warming Planet Braces for a Sweltering World. http://news.trust.org/item/20170921004408-b75lq and https://www.reuters.com/article/us-heatwave-usa-cities/feature-extreme-heat-an-unseen-threat-burns-u-s-urban-poor-idUSKCN1BW037