Hot Enough Yet?

Apparently not.

Two weeks ago, my family vacation took us past the self-proclaimed “world’s largest thermometer,” in Baker, California, which read 111 degrees when we visited it–the hottest air temperature my kids had ever felt.  Back at UCLA we’re feeling the heat today, too, with much of the LA basin scorching in record temperatures.  L.A.’s heat wave is just one of many gripping the globe right now, with records being set from the Middle East to northern Europe to Canada to the eastern and now western U.S.

Today’s aberrant temperatures won’t be unusual for long.  For a scary glimpse into the not-too-distant future in southern California, check out my colleague Dr. Alex Hall’s groundbreaking research (covered well in the LA Times and other outlets) into future L.A. temps under climate change scenarios.  He is one of the most sophisticated “downscalers” of climate modeling in the world, which means he is able to tell us, neighborhood by neighborhood, just how hot it will likely get in L.A. over the coming decades, because of climate change.  For example, by the end of this century L.A. could see 54 days per year above 95 degrees, up from an average of 6 days/year in recent decades.  Yikes.  Coastal areas will face fewer extreme heat days, but look out in the Valley.

This is a serious public health concern.  It affects water supply, wildfire risk, power reliability, disease vectors, and air quality.  Heat waves also kill people directly, especially heat waves that fall relatively early in a summer season.  In Quebec, more than 30 people are reported dead in this week’s heat, most of them elderly.  The worst heat waves kill tens of thousands.

What steps can we take to reduce these harms?  Obviously we can and should begin to reduce our climate emissions.  If you’re in a hole, stop digging.  Alex Hall’s research shows a significant difference, at the end of this century, between the heat L.A. neighborhoods will regularly endure under mitigation and business-as-usual scenarios.  There are also steps we can take to make our neighborhoods more resilient in the face of higher temperatures, and Los Angeles is starting to take those steps.  My favorite projects involve cool roofs and cool pavements, which work by reflecting heat away from buildings and other surfaces to keep neighborhood temperatures down.  Check out Climate Resolve’s great work on this issue if you haven’t already seen it.  Many years ago, some students and I researched the potential for cool roofs to benefit L.A., and it’s gratifying to see L.A.’s pioneering cool roof ordinance and other programs starting to make a difference.  Check out this Canoga Park cool pavement project, for example.  Working by degrees, we can take the worst of the edge off.

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Reader Comments

5 Replies to “Hot Enough Yet?”

  1. Carbon emissions are called “greenhouse” gases because they trap heat like a greenhouse. Consequently, “cool” surfaces that reflect sunlight simply relocate solar radiation from one location to another. This might be good for LA, but bad for Pasadena — where heat is also trapped by the San Gabriel mountains.

    Such efforts may have praiseworthy short-term localized goals, but do not address overall rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Much greater development of innovative technologies — such as artificial photosynthesis, CO2 conversion, fuel cells and hydrogen vehicles — will be necessary to mitigate or reverse the harmful effects of climate change to public health and the environment.

  2. Pruitt Is Gone, but Trump Is Still Winning the Energy Wars:

    “……..Scott Pruitt was not only the most effective Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief in the institution’s 48-year history (not difficult, admittedly, given the dismal quality of his predecessors). But he was also one of the most able facilitators of Trump’s project to Make America Great Again.

    He gave Trump the moral support he needed to make the key decision (opposed by many within the White House, notably Javanka and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.

    Also – after a bit of prodding: initially, Pruitt did not seem to get it, but with some good advice, he grew into the job – he began dismantling all the disastrous Obama-era legislation which had ostensibly been devised to protect the environment but was really just another facet of the left’s war on personal freedom and Western industrial civilization.

    The Waters of the U.S. Rule; the Clean Power Plan: these were not really about saving nature, but, respectively, a left-wing grab on property rights and a left-wing assault on industry. Under the new EPA, both those rattlesnakes have been defanged and will shortly be crushed underfoot. So whatever satisfaction the left may derive from the tiny victory of booting Pruitt out of office, they’ve still lost the war……..”

    1. It is disappointing that you consider Breitbart a good source of news considering that it flirts with white nationalism and the alt-right:

      I find it more interesting that you decided to stop responding to our conversation about regulatory capture and a long time coal lobbyist now running the agency that regulates the coal industry.

      1. Climate Activist Frustration: Nobody is Paying for Our Free Lunch:

        “……….What really gets me is the sheer arrogance. The money flows in for the disaster then stops, and they complain. They think US should just keep giving them a free lunch indefinitely.

        There are US citizens living with insane levels of poverty. In one part of Alabama, 34% of those tested were infected or had recently been infected with hookworm. People infected with hookworm can’t just go out and get a job, because the infection makes them listless and anaemic – hookworm literally drains their blood, severely impairs their ability to do things most of us would consider normal. Even people who aren’t infected are affected – infected children are particularly vulnerable to the debilitating effects of hookworm. Although hookworm is fairly easy to treat, hookworm eggs are endemic in the area – reinfection is a constant serious risk.

        These are the sort of people who really could use a little help, US citizens living in the USA suffering with desperate problems they’re struggling to address by themselves, not ungrateful greens running expensive foreign climate “centers” who took their free lunch for granted under former President Obama………”

        1. Are you ashamed to respond to the things I’ve pointed out? You are sadly falling into the mold of a person who can’t admit when he is wrong.

          You are also performing a hat trick with the sources you use. Now you are posting from the blog of Anthony Watts, a local weatherman with nothing more than a high school diploma that has become the last refuge for denialists. Sad that this is what conservatism has been degraded to.

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About Cara

Cara Horowitz is the co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law. The Emmett Institute was founded as the f…

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About Cara

Cara Horowitz is the co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law. The Emmett Institute was founded as the f…

READ more