Heat in HOUSING

 

We spend two-thirds of our time at home. Is California housing ready for a warmer world?

 
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Heat kills people, even in the cool, coastal regions of California. Within two decades, scientists predict extremely hot days in the Bay Area three to four times more often than in recent years. An investigation with KQED found that last year, two heat waves killed 14 people in the Bay Area, and sent hundreds more to the hospital. By our count, 79 percent of people who died started to experience heat illness at home.

Colleen Loughman died in the home where she grew up. She was at risk because her aging body couldn’t acclimatize to intense, fast-arriving heat. She was vulnerable in her home, without a way to cool down. And though she was loved, she was isolated.

In the summer of 2018, we measured heat in 31 homes, in four counties, across the state. We found that in every home, it was hotter inside than outside—even after the sun went down—depriving people of the ability to cool off at night.

 
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Baked into the landscape of Los Angeles is a sneaky threat to public health: heat. Concrete and asphalt have pushed LA’s average temperature 6 degrees higher than the desert around it. Climate change is making this urban heat island hotter still.

Western communities, including Los Angeles, are aware that urban heat is a serious and growing threat to public health, and the warming climate only increases the problem. “It’s not as visible as other catastrophes, but the implications can be far reaching,” says Elizabeth Rhoades, who works on climate issues in Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health.