Mullin on ‘Glimmers of Possibility’ on Climate Action

News outlets including Ethnic Media Services, The Hill, La Opinión and Peninsula 360 Press covered research by UCLA Luskin’s Megan Mullin about the entrenched political divide that has impeded action on climate change — as well as signals that the logjam is starting to break. “I am seeing glimmers of possibility that climate action may yet be underway even as American climate politics remains firmly in the grip of polarization,” said Mullin, professor of public policy and faculty director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, at a briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services. Not only are Republican-led states seeing growing levels of clean-energy production, she said, but many heavily Republican areas of the country are at high risk for the worst effects of climate change. Mullin also cited the climate change literacy of younger generations, which is “leaps and bounds beyond the literacy of older generations, and that translates into smaller divides, even among young Republicans.” 


On the Chronic, Day-to-Day Toll of Rising Temperatures

V. Kelly Turner, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, joined the podcast America Adapts for an expansive conversation on the effects of rising temperatures on public health. While record-setting heat has received widespread media coverage over the summer, Turner stressed that governments must develop not just climate emergency plans, but long-term resiliency strategies that protect people from the chronic day-to-day experience of elevated temperatures. “We talk a lot about extreme heat and we talk a lot about mortality and we talk about heat sickness, but what we don’t really talk about is the myriad ways that heat affects well-being in our daily lives. It affects your cognitive abilities, your emotional state. You’re more likely to be angry, unable to concentrate,” Turner said. “I think these are ways that the lived experience for many Americans is going to be degraded because they don’t have access to cool communities or cool infrastructure.”


Advancing Climate Policy in an Era of Deeply Partisan Politics

In a deeply polarized political environment, Americans are more divided on climate change than ever before. Yet three recent developments could advance climate policy, despite partisan politics, according to a new article in the journal Political Science & Politics co-authored by UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation faculty director Megan Mullin and Patrick J. Egan of New York University:

  • Partisan cohesion and Democratic initiative. The Republican and Democratic parties have become more unified internally. While Republicans are less concerned about climate change than ever before, growing cohesion among Democrats, both among elected officials and members of the public, has elevated climate change as a party priority and increased their willingness to take electoral risks to address it.
  • Clean-energy expansion in Republican states. Even though decision-makers in Republican-led states have backpedaled on support for clean energy, those states are leaders in clean-energy production. Nearly 40% of U.S. renewable energy is situated in the Republican-led states of Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, suggesting that markets can overcome politics in the transition to a clean-energy economy.
  • Partisan distribution of climate impacts. Heavily Republican areas may suffer disproportionately from the worst effects of climate change. Mullin and Egan bring together maps of climate risk with county voting records to show that Republican counties have higher percentages of properties at severe or extreme risk from flooding and fire over the next 30 years. This may inspire partisan voters to demand political action by their elected officials.

Read the full story, and find related research on the Center for Innovation’s Climate Adaptation and Resilience webpage.


Uncovering Climate Hazards in California’s Prisons

A San Francisco Chronicle article highlighted research by UCLA Luskin master of public policy students who found that California’s prison system is not prepared to respond to climate emergencies that threaten the well-being of the state’s incarcerated population. Their report, produced on behalf of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, used a mixed methods approach that included interviews with experts, a spatial analysis and a survey of nearly 600 currently incarcerated people in all 34 of California’s prison facilities. The study found evidence of power outages and generator failures, a lack of shade in outdoor spaces, and a lack of access to air-conditioned spaces or heated facilities during extreme weather events. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents said they experienced heat exhaustion while incarcerated. The researchers, MPP ’23 graduates Aishah Abdala, Abhilasha Bhola, Guadalupe Gutierrez, Eric Henderson and Maura O’Neill, offered a series of policy recommendations aimed at keeping incarcerated people safe, protecting taxpayer interests and ensuring that government institutions are held accountable.


Managing Extreme Heat as a New School Year Begins

NBC News spoke to V. Kelly Turner, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI), about the impact of soaring temperatures on students as the new school year begins. “Children’s bodies are not the same as adults. They are more vulnerable to extreme heat,” Turner said. “If kids don’t feel well or are angry or can’t concentrate, then of course they won’t test well.” She added, “Extreme heat is our new reality. Hot seasons will be longer and more intense, and for many children, school is the only place with air conditioning.” In a separate interview with the Los Angeles affiliate NBC4, Turner said that California lacks a statewide reporting system to track how K-12 schools experience heat, including which campuses have functioning cooling systems. The recent LCI policy brief Protecting Californians With Heat-Resilient Schools offers guidance on how to prioritize heat management on campuses, including through the establishment of a statewide indoor temperature limit.


‘We Were Prepared and, as a Result, We Made Our Own Luck’

The New York Times checked in with Los Angeles civic leader Zev Yaroslavsky to discuss the impact of Tropical Storm Hilary, which broke records for August rainfall in Southern California but did not cause catastrophic damage or large-scale loss of life. In some communities, emergency workers were dispatched to ferry people to safety, and crews responded to reports of fallen trees, potholes and downed power lines, along with flooding and mudflows that cut off roads. But officials generally expressed relief that things were not much worse. “I can’t remember a major storm in which we had no fatalities,” said Yaroslavsky, a former Los Angeles county supervisor and city councilman who now directs the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin. “We were prepared and, as a result, we made our own luck.”


A Cautionary Note on the Easing of Water Restrictions

Gregory Pierce, co-executive director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the easing of water conservation orders by the L.A. Department of Water and Power. The DWP’s 4 million customers may now water their outdoor landscapes on three days a week, up from two days, thanks to a wet winter that replenished reservoirs that had been drained amid drought. Pierce said the DWP’s action is “reasonable as a short-term measure,” but he cautioned that residents should prepare to be flexible as global conditions grow hotter and drier. “I would prefer if the language were more like, two days is what you should expect — it’s going to be more common in the future — but we can allow three in the short-term because of this unusual water year,” said Pierce, who directs the UCLA Human Right to Water Solutions Lab. “I’d prefer the framing of two days as default, three as exceptional.”


Shade as an Essential Solution for Hotter Cities

V. Kelly Turner, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, shared her expertise on the impact of extreme heat on people’s well-being with a wide range of media outlets. In a CNN interview, Turner said one of the most effective ways to keep people cool is often neglected in urban planning: simply providing shade. “A person standing in the shade can feel 20 to 40 degrees Celsius cooler than someone who’s standing in the sun just a few feet away,” she said. Turner is also lead author of a Nature article calling on policymakers to remove bureaucratic barriers to installing shade structures: “It is important not to make something as simple as shade-building financially or legally impossible.” She also spoke to the Los Angeles Times, KCRW, NPR and LAist about issues including the federal government’s new measures to help Americans adapt to extreme temperatures and the intentional removal of sources of shade in the midst of dangerously high temperatures, which Turner called “climate violence.”


Turner on How to Protect Children From Extreme Heat

V. Kelly Turner, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times calling for action to protect California’s schoolchildren from extreme heat. “Schools are some of the hottest places in our region,” Turner wrote. “Single-story buildings surrounded by open, asphalt-dominated play yards with few trees provide little opportunity for cooling shade.” She identified a number of equity-minded funding opportunities, legislative actions and policy recommendations to help schools adapt to rising temperatures. Turner’s research into urban planning and design approaches that can make communities more resilient to climate change has made her a sought-after commentator this summer. CNN and KCRW spoke with Turner about adaptation strategies including planting shade trees and covering streets with cooling paint. And Ethnic Media Services covered a news briefing on coping strategies featuring Marta Segura, chief heat officer in the city of Los Angeles, Turner and other leaders.


Sweltering Temperatures Take Toll on the Most Vulnerable

V. Kelly Turner, associate director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to NBC4 News about the impact of Southern California’s heat wave on groups that are particularly vulnerable due to age, disability, low income and access to transportation. “I think about the sensitive populations who lack the resources or capacity to adapt when it gets really hot,” said Turner, who leads a research group focusing on policy approaches to protect people from extreme heat. “But I also think about people who are spending a lot of their time in settings where they’re exposed to too much heat. So that could be something like taking public transportation and being at a bus stop with no shelter.” In sweltering temperatures, she said, “we know that women are more likely to have preterm births. We know that children’s learning outcomes are degraded. We know that elderly are more likely to fall down.”