The Keys to Beating, or at Least Fighting, Climate Change: Bikes, Transit, Parks, Trees

Much is being made, and rightly so, of “Mid-Century Warming in the Los Angeles Region,“ the report released today by UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. The report breaks down the impact of Climate Change on Los Angeles down to the 2 square mile level using new technology over the coming decades.

The maps with the bar graphs detail the number of hot days different areas across the City of Los Angeles as well as the County. The best ways to fight back includes bikes, buses, trees and parks.

The bad news is that Los Angeles is going to get hit hard.  Temperatures will increase between 3.7°F and 5.4°F across Los Angeles by mid-century. Rising temperatures will be most notable during the summer and fall, with the number of “extreme heat” days above 95°F tripling in downtown Los Angeles and nearly quadrupling in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys. Extreme heat is of particular concern for planners and policymakers because of the associated public health consequences.

“Higher temperatures bring higher health risks,” says Dr. Richard Jackson, the UCLA Professor who links transportation planning and development to Public Health. “Longer, harsher heat waves will cause more cases of heat stroke and heat exhaustion – even among otherwise healthy people who believe they’re immune – and higher temperatures mean more smog, with consequences for respiratory health as well.”

That’s the bad news.  The good news, even by acting locally there is something that L.A. can do.  The UCLA study found that aggressive mitigation efforts could reduce mid-century warming by about 30%.  Under Mayor Villaraigosa, the city has acted aggressively to curb green house gas emissions by reducing the city’s dependency on dirty energy and increasing use of fossil fuels through his GREENLA plan.

Today, the City released Adapt LA, a fact sheet outlining what principles the city must embrace to both prepare for higher temperatures and work to keep them as low as possible, and C-Change LA , its new climate change website. AdaptLA has four major components: 1) science-based evaluation of the impacts of climate change; 2) assessment of the vulnerability of and risks to City infrastructure and assets; 3) regional collaboration; and 4) public engagement.

And at the heart of the Adapt LA framework is this: the city needs to embrace clean transportation in the form of bikes, an integrated clean-fuel transit system and even electric cars. The Adapt LA report is sprinkled with pictures of cyclists and CicLAvia and shiny buses and trains and the text places improved transit at the top of the priorities that the city should embrace.

Also included in the city’s climate change to-do list is building more parks and planting more trees.

Of course, reports are a dime a dozen. It’s easy for the City and Mayor to talk about building bike lanes and increasing open space the day that a report is released. But to keep its bike momentum, it’s going to take a city that is willing to sacrifice mixed-use travel lanes for bike lanes and bus-only lanes. This past fiscal year, the city made its promise of 40 miles of new bike infrastructure by the end of the year. But these were the easy projects, the ones that didn’t require environmental review and didn’t require changing car traffic patterns.

Today’s climate change report is a sobering reminder that there’s a lot left to do to make our transportation network as clean and green as it should be.

The ball is in our court. Is L.A. serious about fighting climate change? I guess we’ll see.