With forecasts for a sweltering summer, LA vows to improve response to extreme heat

Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

LOS ANGELES -- With forecasts calling for warmer-than-average temperatures across California this summer, officials in Los Angeles are vowing to do more to protect residents from extreme heat, one of the deadliest consequences of human-caused climate change.

City officials said they are launching the "Heat Relief 4 L.A." campaign to help spread the word about the dangers of extreme heat, which disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color, as well as pregnant women, homeless people and the elderly.

Among the city's top priorities are installing more cooling centers and hydration stations to provide relief on hot days, as well as investing in cool pavement projects and trees to help combat the urban heat island effect, mayor Karen Bass said during a news conference Wednesday.

"Climate change is among the greatest challenges facing our city, and no one has felt the impact of this crisis more than our communities here in L.A.," Bass said. "Extreme heat is the single largest cause of climate-related deaths and hospital visits in Los Angeles, with low-income communities and our unhoused population disproportionately impacted."

Studies have shown that climate change is exacerbating both the frequency and magnitude of heat waves, which are expected to occur more often and reach higher temperatures in the coming years and decades.

Emergency room visits and mortality rates skyrocket during hot weather, which is also associated with higher labor costs, workplace injuries, impaired learning and decreased cognitive performance. Power outages and blackouts are also increasingly common as more people turn on their air conditioners, straining the power grid.


"When we have an increase in mortality of between 10% and 30% on extreme heat days, it's clear that there is a public health imperative, particularly among our most vulnerable residents," said L.A. City Council President Paul Krekorian.

Marta Segura, L.A.'s first-ever chief heat officer, said the city is working to combat these effects by enhancing tree canopies, permeable surfaces and roads, as well as installing more cool roofs, heat pumps and passive cooling systems, among other efforts.

The city also seeks to improve its "social infrastructure" through heat risk communication campaigns, targeted disaster response resources and expanded cooling and resilience centers, Segura said. Residents can use the Cool Spots LA app to find nearby cooling centers during heat emergencies.

"I think, as a city, we're going to set an example for others to ensure that we are not just preparing for extreme heat and climate change, but we are investing first and foremost in the areas that have been historically left behind, because we believe that that is what will bring us the greatest accelerated climate solutions for the entire region," she said.


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