UCLA to lead the new Center of Excellence for Heat Resilient Communities

LCI receives a first-of-its-kind federal grant to help protect communities from the dangers of heat

UCLA to lead the new Center of Excellence for Heat Resilient Communities

Credit: Flickr / Tambako The Jaguar

By Mara Elana Burstein

We’re not prepared for rising temperatures. Heat poses a growing and inequitable threat to the health, economies, and security of communities everywhere – yet heat governance remains underdeveloped, especially in comparison to other climate hazards.

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) wants to change that. Under the leadership of its associate director, V. Kelly Turner, LCI has been awarded a $2.25 million grant to establish a Center of Excellence for Heat Resilient Communities. Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), the Center of Excellence will engage and support communities in determining the best strategies for local heat mitigation and management.

“Some communities have begun to plan for heat, but most lack the capacity or resources to engage in comprehensive planning,” said Turner, who leads LCI’s heat equity research and, along with colleagues, has long called for a coordinated national approach to heat resilience. “With this grant, we can help the federal government establish a robust, actionable, and durable plan to support preparation efforts.”  

Turner’s co-leads for this project are Sara Meerow at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation, and Ladd Keith, assistant professor and faculty research associate at the University of Arizona’s Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy. With more than 50 other partners committed, the grant will enable the creation of an international network of heat scholars and practitioners. One outcome will be a framework to identify and evaluate policies, protocols, and lessons for heat resilience that can be applied in the U.S. and internationally. 

Thirty communities and tribal entities will be selected for direct technical assistance and comprehensive educational support during the three-year grant period. By centering equity in its approach, the Center for Excellence will systematically work with and fund historically excluded communities and help see through the Biden Administration’s goals under Justice40. This will broaden the impact and benefits of engagement, heat data and information, and other approaches, like benefit-cost analysis, to inform effective and equitable planning for heat resilience. 

The ultimate goal is to protect public health and well-being from acute and chronic heat dangers through equity-centered, data-informed, whole-of-government approaches to mitigate and manage heat in diverse communities and heat-exposure settings.

Funding for the Center of Excellence for Heat Resilient Communities is provided through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda. This is one of two new NIHHIS centers of excellence. The complementary Center for Collaborative Heat Monitoring, to be led by the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, N.C., will assist community-serving organizations in conducting local climate and health studies. 

“The impacts of extreme heat caused by climate change are an increasing threat to our health, ecosystems, and economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Thanks to President Biden’s ambitious climate agenda, this investment will support new NIHHIS Centers of Excellence to help protect historically excluded communities from the dangers of extreme heat, boost climate resilience, and increase awareness on best practices to tackle the climate crisis.”

To learn more about how LCI research informs heat equity solutions to improve human well-being and quality of life where we live, work, learn, and play, see LCI’s heat equity webpage.