Climate adaptation is an urgent policy priority. As local, state, and national governments confront the reality of a rapidly changing climate, they face the challenge of designing policy that balances many competing economic objectives.

The UCLA Climate Adaptation and Community Resiliency Initiative, housed in the Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI), seeks to advance the understanding of how climate change can affect vulnerable populations – including low-income households and workers exposed to climate-related occupational hazards – and inform actions to increase community-driven resiliency. The initiative focuses on research that can deliver data-driven insights in a rapidly evolving policy landscape. Current research includes assessments of heat-related risks faced by workers, low-income households, students, and expecting mothers. The research is linked through themes of:

  • Labor, Learning, and Adaptation Equity
  • Public Health
  • Distributional Equity
  • Land Use and Urban Design

Labor, Learning, and Adaptation Equity 

Unequal Learning in a Warming World
(Fact sheet summarizing a 2020 journal article; update to the Heat and Learning 2018 National Bureau of Economic Research working paper)
Researchers: Joshua Goodman, Michael Hurwitz, Jisung Park, and Jonathan Smith

LCI Associate Director R. Jisung Park and collaborators quantify how cumulative heat exposure affects learning. Without air conditioning, a 1°F hotter school year reduces student learning by 1%. The researchers also identify how school air conditioning can mitigate this effect, and that low-income and minorities students have less access to adequate air conditioning, contributing to the racial achievement gap.

This research garnered over 100 media stories including: an op-ed in USA Today, and coverage by PBS News, The Washington PostTalkPovertyKPCC Radio, ClimateWire, and America Adapts, among many other major outlets.

Hot Temperature and High Stakes Cognitive Assessments (2018 working paper and 2020 journal article)
Author: R. Jisung Park

This study provides the first estimates of the impact of hot temperatures on high-stakes exam performance and subsequent educational attainments. Hot days reduce performance by up to 15 percent and have persistent effects on high school graduate status, despite what appears to be compensatory responses by teachers.

Media coverage: The New York TimesBBC NewsThe 74 Million, Joongang Ilbo (Korean Daily) 

Will We Adapt? Temperature, Labor and Adaptation to Climate Change (2018 working paper as part of broader ongoing study)
Authors: Jisung Park and Patrick Behrer

LCI Scholar Jisung Park and his collaborator Patrick Behrer are exploring heat-related labor impacts to understand the role of adaptation in response to climate change. This research is partially funded by the California Strategic Growth Council as part of its new Climate Change Research Program.

Public Health 

The Impact of High Temperatures on Delivery Timing and Gestational Lengths (2019 journal article)

Alan Barreca, LCI affiliated faculty scholar, and Jessamyn Schaller co-authored a study linking early childbirths to hotter temperatures due to climate change.

The study published in the journal Nature Climate Change also received press coverage by CNN, TIME, The Conversation and USA Today, among others.

Maybe Next Month? Temperature Shocks and Dynamic Adjustments in Birth Rates (2018 journal article)
Author: Alan Barreca, Olivier Deschenes, and Melanie Guldi

Alan Barreca and colleagues estimated the effects of temperature shocks on birth rates in the United States between 1931 and 2010. They found that global warming is making it more difficult for couples to conceive. Specifically, days with a mean temperature above 80 °F cause a large decline in birth rates eight to ten months later.

This study was published in the journal Demography as well as widely cited by the media, including CNNReuters, CityLab, and more.

Adapting to Climate Change: The Remarkable Decline in the US Temperature-Mortality Relationship over the Twentieth Century (2016 journal article)
Authors: Alan Barreca, Karen Clay, Olivier Deschenes, Michael Greenstone, and Joseph S. Shapiro

Alan Barreca and colleagues examined the temperature-mortality relationship over the course of the 20thcentury. They found that the mortality impact of days exceeding 80 °F declined by 75 percent, that almost the entire decline occurred after 1960, and that this is explained by the diffusion of air conditioning.

The study was published in the Journal of Political Economy and also received coverage in popular media including The Washington Post.

Distributional Equity 

Measuring Climate Change Heat Impacts on Vulnerable Communities to Design and Target Protective Policies (current project)
Researchers: J.R. DeShazo, Gregory Pierce, Jisung Park, Alan Barreca, C.J. Gabbe, Lolly Lim, Rachel Connolly, and Colleen Callahan

A nearly $1.5 million grant from the Strategic Growth Council to LCI supports multiple studies of heat-related climate impacts, the factors that make populations and communities vulnerable, and opportunities to build resilience. Climate change could exacerbate inequalities, and this project will result in tools to empower communities and help government agencies target responses.

Equity Impacts of Urban Land Use Planning for Climate Adaptation (2016 journal article)
Authors: Isabelle Anguelovski,Linda Shi, Eric Chu, Daniel Gallagher,Kian Goh, Zachary Lamb, Kara Reeve, and Hannah Teicher

LCI Scholar Kian Goh and colleagues assess how the growing number climate of adaptation plans developed by cities affect the vulnerability of the urban poor. The paper, published by the Journal of Planning Education and Research, explains that land use planning for climate adaptation can exacerbate socio-spatial inequalities across diverse developmental and environmental conditions, and offer recommendations to advance equitable adaptation.

Roadmap Towards Justice in Urban Climate Adaptation (2016 paper)
Authors: Linda Shi, Eric Chu, Isabelle Anguelovski, Alexander Aylett, Jessica Debats, Kian Goh, Todd Schenk, Karen C. Seto, David Dodman, Debra Roberts, J. Timmons Roberts, and Stacy D. VanDeveer

In this paper published by Nature Climate Change, LCI Scholar Kian Goh and colleagues present a roadmap to reorient urban climate adaptation around issues of equity and justice. Recommendations include: (1) broadening participation in adaptation planning; (2) expanding adaptation to rapidly growing cities and those with low financial or institutional capacity; (3) adopting a multilevel and multi-scalar approach to adaptation planning; and (4) integrating justice into infrastructure and urban design processes.

Forthcoming publications from Dr. Goh include articles on global-urban networks of climate change adaptation in Urban Studies and the politics of urban flooding in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

Land Use and Urban Design  

Heat Mitigation Through Urban Design Interventions (Current projects)
Led by: Kelly Turner

A series of projects, led by LCI Associate Director Dr. Kelly Turner, are investigating the heat regulating benefits of urban design interventions at the streetscape and other local levels. Urban design interventions include shade coverage, tree planting, and solar reflecting surfaces. Current projects in this area include:

  • Adapting to a Hotter Future in the Transformative Climate Communities. This project investigates the heat ameliorating benefits of tree planting and urban greening in three communities—Watts, Ontario, and Fresno—selected to receive state funding via the Transformative Climate Communities Program. This microclimate heat study is funded by the Luskin Center for Innovation and the UCLA Faculty Career Award.
  • Cool Pavement: Untangling Heat Outcome Trade-offs. This study collected the first field measurements of Mean Radiant Temperature (MRT, a proxy for human thermal comfort), air and surface temperature, and incoming long wave and outgoing shortwave radiation.
  • Cool Art. Internationally renowned artist Eric Skotnes, from the art collective INDECLINE, painted the first large-scale, street art piece using solar reflective paint to raise awareness about rising temperatures in cities. The project on a 1920s-era building in South Los Angeles makes a double visual impact – as an elegant eco-mural that enlivens the community and also as an infrared image documented by thermal camera. This project is a collaboration with art historian Lizy Dastin, with primary funding from LCI, paint donated by Creative Paving Solutions, wall donated by Amped Kitchens, additional funding from the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, and thermal imagery by Ariane Middel. See the news story.
  • Comparing Heat Outcomes between New Urbanism and Sprawl. This project investigates the microclimate differences attributable to design. It investigates Civano, a planned neighborhood in suburban Tucson, Arizona, and two adjacent communities, Sierra Morado (green building, conventional subdivision design) and Mesquite Ranch (conventional subdivision buildings and design). It finds that New Urbanist design reduces neighborhood land surface temperatures by 1-3 C, and that these findings hold for all seasons, day and night. Assessment of thermal comfort is underway. See the paper Addressing Climate Change through Design and related article in The Professional Geographer.

For more information, see the Los Angeles Integrative Nature and Design (LindA) Collaborative, led by Professor Kelly Turner. LindA involves an interdisciplinary group of researchers investigating urban design interventions. The goal is to identify what local-scale interventions can best help cities address the impacts of climate change.  

Retreat: Moving to Higher Ground in a Climate-Changed City (forthcoming book)
Author: Liz Koslov

LCI Scholar Liz Koslov’s book Retreat: Moving to Higher Ground in a Climate-Changed City is an ethnographic account of community-organized retreat from the coast in New York City after Hurricane Sandy. The book, under advance contract with the University of Chicago Press, highlights Dr. Koslov’s examination of the social impacts of buyouts, a form of property acquisition in which houses and lots are purchased from willing sellers with future development prohibited.

See the related article The Case for Retreat in Public Culture as well as the Toolbox: Planning Relocations to Protect People from Disasters and Environmental Change.

Dr. Koslov has spoken about this research in outlets that include The New Yorker, WWNO New Orleans Public Radio, and Scientific American.