Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Three Day Heat Wave in Los Angeles

We are in the middle of a heat wave in LA where the high temperatures could get close to 100 degrees (source LA Times).   How will we adapt to this heat?  How much would people be willing to pay to avoid this heat?   All over the region, people will stay inside and crank the air conditioning.  

People will stagger their day to not be outside from lunch to the late afternoon.   Given that crime has fallen in the center city, few will worry about a repeat of the 1995 Chicago heat wave disaster that Erik Klinenberg sketched.    I agree with Professor Klinenberg that those senior citizens who have friends and family they can rely on will be less likely to suffer in this heatwave.  Social connections matter in providing necessary services such as access to food and comfort.    In anticipating future heat waves, the county of Los Angeles has opened up 55 cooling centers that are open for the public.  This redistribution helps to protect the less fortunate.

Here is the set of cooling centers with their street addresses and hours of operation.  A richer society can collect the taxes to pay for the cooling center redistribution.   This is a simple example of how economic development helps us to adapt to climate change.

The free market system also offers a series of cooling centers.  They are called Starbucks and hotel lobbies.  I recognize that these places will be located in richer areas but this example highlights that again and again that climate adaptation comes back to resources.   At the end of the day, the poor bear more of the costs --- so adapting to climate change is really about equitable economic growth.  Many environmentalists want to gloss over this point.