Cooling LA to Save Lives

How do you cope with heat waves? Do you go swimming? Go to the movies? Crank up the air conditioning and stay home?

While these are all great options for most of us, many of these are not available to our fellow Angelenos. Half of LA’s households do not have air conditioning. For some households, turning on the A/C is not always an option when paying for electricity means less money for food or healthcare.

Imagine the people who rely on public transportation– these Angelenos have little to no protection as they fry in the sun on the way to work or school. It can be next to impossible to escape the crippling heat on the way and at the bus stop, placing the young, elderly and those with chronic conditions in harm’s way.

Did you know that by 2050, average temperatures in LA are expected to rise by 3° to 7°F? This type of heat stress can even cause more premature deaths and is expected to become more common as our world gets hotter.

Cool Ways to Combat Heat

TreePeople and the LA County Department of Public Health are at the frontlines of the battle against rising temperatures. Together with UCLA, we will evaluate the placement and effectiveness of official “cooling centers” — air-conditioned public spaces to help protect residents at high risk of heat exposure.

This work is critical today and will only become more important.

According to NASA, 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001, and 2016 ranks as the hottest. And LA has the unique distinction of having a greater number of days over 90°F  than any other region in the country, meaning we not only need to plan for heat mitigation during summer but year-round as well.

Over the next few months, a team of talented students from the UCLA Environmental Science Department, under the watchful eye of Dr. Alan Barreca, will investigate whether or not these cooling centers match the need of Angelenos. They will also explore ways “cooling corridors” — tree-lined streets leading to cool indoor spaces — can be part of the solution.

Our partners at UCLA’s recommendations will help shape how the County Department of Public Health and TreePeople can plan and advocate for heat mitigation to protect vulnerable residents from illness and death for years to come.

When great minds come together, LA’s rising heat threat can be tackled.

Interested to see what else we have planned? Check out our work on the Los Angeles Urban Cooling Collaborative!

By Edith de Guzman

Edith de Guzman, Director of Research, Natural Urban Systems Group, has been with TreePeople since 2003, where she manages research into best practices for the sustainable transformation of the Greater Los Angeles area. Exploring environmental, social and economic aspects of urban ecosystems, she works to collect and disseminate research that identifies the efficacy, benefits and applicability of various approaches to urban sustainability, with a special focus on watershed management. Edith received a master's in Urban Planning from UCLA and a bachelor's in History/Art History, also from UCLA.