Sharon L. Harlan, PhD

Affiliate Professor

Affiliate Faculty, Department of Health Sciences

Office: 316L Robinson Hall

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 617-373-7326

View Résumé/CV


PhD, Sociology, Cornell University
MA, Sociology, Cornell University
BA, Sociology, Northeastern University


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 coupled natural and human systems research 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 national 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, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Social Science Coordinating Committee of the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program.

Northeastern Centers and Institutes

Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
Global Resilience Institute

Institutional Affiliations and Appointments

Adjunct Faculty, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University
Affiliate Global Futures Scholar, Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation, Arizona State University

Research Interests

Environmental health, environmental sociology, environmental justice, social impacts of climate change


PHTH 5214 – Environmental Health

Recent Publications

Wright, M.K., D.M. Hondula, P.M. Chakalian, L.C. Kurtz, L. Watkins, C.J. Gronlund, L. Larsen, E. Mallen, S.L. Harlan (2020) “Social and Behavioral Determinants of Indoor Temperatures in Air-Conditioned Homes.” Building and Environment (180): 107187.

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.

Selected Public Service

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Climate and Health Science Webinar Series. Presenter, Panelist, Climate Change, Extreme Heat, and Health, August 2021.

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. (pdf)

In the News

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. and