Los Angeles County identifies dozens of cities most at risk due to climate hazards in new report

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Wednesday, November 3, 2021
LA County identifies dozens of cities most at risk to climate hazards
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Los Angeles County leaders are discussing the findings of a new report that shows which communities are facing the greatest climate hazards.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County has spent a year studying which regions face the biggest climate threats, considering socioeconomic factors and layers of vulnerability.

The L.A. County Climate Vulnerability Assessment focuses on how people and infrastructure in the county may be vulnerable to the changing climate. The report was developed by the Chief Sustainability Office and its partners.

It highlights places most at risk of wildfires or those at risk of flooding from rain and sea level rise, such as Long Beach and San Pedro.

Eyewitness News spoke with Natalie Hernandez, an associate director of climate planning and resilience at Climate Resolve, an organization that contributed to the report, leading stakeholder engagement process across L.A. County.

"I point to this park where ... this actually is next to the L.A. River and helps with flooding when there is a big rain event," Hernandez said of the importance of preserving parks like Deforest Wetlands Park in Long Beach.

The report also highlighted regions like Bellflower and East L.A., where heat can be magnified due to infrastructure. For example, lack of trees that provide shade or buildings with poor temperature control.

"There are a lot of parts of the county that have less tree canopy, is what we say, or less shade over different parts of the neighborhood," said Hernandez. "They just might have more asphalt or no parks."

Poorer communities of color have fewer trees to offer shade and combat climate change

Experts say the lack of green spaces in poorer communities of color is a public health crisis. The solution? Plant more trees.

According to the the report, Latinos make up roughly 48.5% of the county's population, but nearly 67% of communities vulnerable to extreme heat risk.

Outdoor workers like Dulce Maria bear the brunt of it. She proudly describes herself as a street vendor who sells jewelry in East L.A.

"You can feel the heat rising from the floor," she said about the city's hottest days. "We look for tree shade."

On Tuesday afternoon, she opened up a small umbrella as the clouds dissipated.

She said would like to see more trees. That's one of the many initiatives Climate Resolve is working on.

The report aims to create county-wide solutions and empower local governments.

"If you're in, say for instance, Santa Clarita or if you're in Bellflower, you can see what the impacts are in your own community," said Gary Gero, the chief sustainability officer with L.A. County.

"These are all based on assumptions on what will happen in the future. That's not what is going to happen in the future, and if we take aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, the impacts won't be as bad as what we're projecting."

Funding is another piece of the puzzle.

"We have a grant writing assistance program that helps different cities get grants for their community," Hernandez said. " And we also are advocating to the state, so some of the policies and findings from the report can be applied to statewide," said Hernandez.