As world leaders discuss ways to mitigate global climate change at the UN conference in Glasgow (COP26), a new report from LA County’s Chief Sustainability Office identifies how a warming planet will have local impacts, which areas will feel them most, and which groups of people will be most vulnerable.
“We've known for quite some time that climate change is already happening, we're already starting to experience some of the harms, such as extreme heat that can actually impair people's health in a very immediate sense, and more intense floods, and, of course, drought here in California,” says Alison Frazzini, advisor in the LA County Chief Sustainability Office, who was the lead manager on the report. “And so we need to be prepared to deal with these problems as they continue to get worse in the coming decades.”
Frazzini provides two examples of specific neighborhoods that are vulnerable to the increased heat expected.
She points out that Santa Clarita is a beautiful area surrounded by mountains, but it’s also “one of the areas that is going to see the greatest increases in extreme heat, where the average high temperatures will increase by up to 6 degrees by mid-century.”
Frazzini says Santa Clarita also is home to a high proportion of older adults. “We know that older adults are often at risk during extreme heat events. And it'll be important for officials in Santa Clarita and community organizations in Santa Clarita to figure out how they can support those older adults during extreme heat events.”
Temperatures in East LA, according to Frazzini, will not go up as much, but that neighborhood suffers from having a lot of paved areas and buildings that attract and trap heat. At the same time, it doesn’t have many trees or shaded areas to help bring down the temperature.
That’s where the nonprofit group Climate Resolve comes in. Natalie Hernandez is its Associate Director for Climate Planning and Resilience. She says the group helps plants trees to cool down a neighborhood and give people shade.
She continues, “We help the city get new technologies like cool pavement to reflect sun rays back into the atmosphere, as well as cool roofs. And lastly, we try to keep parks healthy and sustainable, so that folks can go to parks to kind of seek refuge from heat waves.”
Hernandez says this work has a significant equity component because a lot of lower-income Angelenos, particularly those of color, work outdoors. For example, they do landscaping, construction, and street vending.
She goes on to say, “People experiencing homelessness, people without reliable transportation, people with disabilities and access challenges, and then tribal and Native communities, as well as rural communities — across the county, all these populations [are going to] have really unique and indirect impacts and going to be the most affected by climate change.”
This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story during the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.