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New Research Shows Global Impact of Extreme Heat on Learning

Extreme heat deepens educational inequities for students around the world, according to new research by R. Jisung Park, associate director of economic research at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. Just published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, Park’s study analyzed standardized achievement data for more than 144 million 15- to 19-year-olds in 58 countries, as well as detailed weather and academic calendar information. The findings showed that the rate of learning decreases with an increase in the number of hot school days. “Temperature is a surprisingly disruptive factor for students — both for high-stakes test-taking and for learning over the longer term,” said Park, an assistant professor of public policy specializing in environmental and labor economics. The new study broadens Park’s body of research into the effect of extreme heat on learning. Previous analyses of U.S. data showed that high temperatures can diminish student performance on standardized exams. In addition, minority and low-income students who attend U.S. schools that lack air conditioning are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of heat, the research found. The latest study measured the effects on a global scale, showing that “heat disrupts learning across a wide range of climates and levels of development,” Park said. The research underscores the importance of policies aimed at improving physical learning environments. More broadly, it demonstrates that the impact of climate change on personal development can add up over time, possibly putting a brake on national economic growth and individual economic mobility.


 

Park on California as Ground Zero for Climate Disaster

Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park spoke to the New York Times for a story about the engineering and land management innovations that led to California’s tremendous growth but also left it vulnerable to climate disaster. For generations, the state has moved vast quantities of water and suppressed wildfires to transform its arid and mountainous landscape into the “richest, most populous and bounteous place in the nation,” the article noted. While these accomplishments reflect the optimism that defines California, Park said, they were not designed to accommodate the increasingly harsh extremes of climate change. “The shocks are outside the range, in many cases, of historical experience,” he said. Park also noted that California’s engineered landscapes are not the only factor behind its high-impact disasters. The state’s size, geographic diversity and large population also expose it to an unusually wide range of extreme climate events.

Hecht on Infrastructure Projects’ Threat to Tropical Forests, Rural People’s Rights

In an opinion piece published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, leading tropical scholars, including Professor Susanna Hecht of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, warn that large-scale infrastructure projects in Latin America are undermining efforts to prevent climate change and biodiversity loss and enhance community land and resource rights. The researchers suggest alternative approaches to infrastructure, guided by an understanding of development that prioritizes human and environmental flourishing, equitable participation in decision-making, climate change mitigation, and a deepened relationship between science and public debate. The opinion is a response to the Group of 20’s emphasis on investment in large-scale infrastructure as a means of promoting economic growth. Governments are also promoting investment in infrastructure as a response to economic recession in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the authors. They outline how science can guide infrastructure planning to emphasize sustainability and respect for human rights.


 

Park on Schools, Extreme Heat, Racial Equity

A Guardian story on the harmful impact of extreme heat on communities of color cited research by Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park. Data from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that U.S. counties with large Black and Latino populations experience a disproportionately high number of days with temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the article said. Research by Park, an environmental economist at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, focuses on the effect of extreme heat on students’ ability to learn. His analysis of data from 10 million U.S. students over 15 years found that minority and low-income students who attend schools that lack air conditioning are particularly vulnerable. “Adapting to climate change is a matter of racial and economic justice, especially in schools,” said Park, who also discussed his research in an interview with America Adapts, beginning at minute 3:18.

Grant Funds Research Into Heat-Resilient Streetscapes

When it comes to beating the Southern California heat, small-scale interventions can have a big impact. If you’ve ever waited for the bus on a hot summer day, you’ve felt how a shady tree or a covered bus shelter can help keep you cool. Despite these tangible benefits, few studies have focused on micro-scale, or street-level, interventions to reduce heat for pedestrians and transit riders. A new grant from the California Strategic Growth Council will fund a UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation analysis of these micro-scale cooling strategies to mitigate heat at bus stops and other streetscapes. V. Kelly Turner, assistant professor of urban planning and associate director of the Center for Innovation, will lead the project, which aims to empower communities, particularly disadvantaged and heat-vulnerable communities, to cost-effectively design cooling solutions for pedestrians and transit riders. This focus on active transportation can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution while creating climate-resilient neighborhoods. Community-engaged research will center on four historically disadvantaged areas that are vulnerable to extreme heat Pacoima, Watts/South Los Angeles, Ontario/Inland Valley and Oasis/Coachella Valley. These communities represent a range of climate zones and built environment forms in Southern California. The project, part of the Center for Innovation’s large body of climate adaptation and resiliency research, will also leverage ongoing partnerships among UCLA, Kounkuey Design Initiative and the state’s Transformative Climate Communities program. — Michelle Einstein


 

UCLA Supports Launch of California’s Transformative Climate Communities Program New Luskin Center for Innovation resource page tracks state's innovative effort to fight climate change

By Colleen Callahan

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) has supported the launch of California’s innovative Transformative Climate Communities Program (TCC), one of the world’s most comprehensive sets of investments in local climate action. This includes developing the evaluation plan to track progress and evaluate outcomes from investments that could serve as a global model for community-scale climate action.

Now, inaugural progress reports for the first communities awarded TCC grants — Fresno, Ontario and Watts in Los Angeles — are authored by LCI researchers. These reports, and other resources related to LCI’s tracking of the groundbreaking efforts in local climate action, are centralized on a new TCC resource page. Policymakers, community stakeholders, researchers and others interested in local strategies to combat climate change can use this page to monitor progress, best practices and lessons learned over the five-year TCC grant implementation period that began in the spring of 2019.

The program to fund the development and implementation of neighborhood-level transformative plans that include multiple projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was authorized by Assembly Bill 2722 in 2016. In addition to fighting climate change, the program empowers disadvantaged communities impacted by poverty and pollution to support projects that advance their local economic, environmental and health goals.

“TCC may be the most holistic investment in neighborhood-scale and community-driven climate action anywhere on the planet,” said Jason Karpman MURP ’16, project manager of UCLA’s TCC evaluation. “Lessons learned from this new program could have potentially broad implications for climate action elsewhere.”

The California Strategic Growth Council serves as the lead administrator of TCC and awarded the first round of grants to Fresno ($66.5 million), Ontario ($33.25 million) and the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles ($33.25 million).

Communities are empowered to customize their projects and plans based on their priorities and partnerships. The program includes mechanisms for accountability, including oversight from community members as well as third-party evaluation from academic researchers.

The team at the Luskin Center for Innovation and a similar group from the UC Berkeley Center for Resource Efficient Communities comprised the evaluation team for round 1 of TCC grants. UCLA researchers will take on a fourth TCC site for evaluation, Northeast Valley Los Angeles, during round 2 of TCC implementation.

The evaluation team worked with Fresno, Ontario and Watts stakeholders to create the Transformative Climate Communities Evaluation Plan, which UCLA published in late 2018. This research roadmap is being used to track and assess progress and results over a five-year period in those communities.

Now, UCLA has released the first annual report spanning the initial months of grant implementation.These reports highlight a wealth of data, including community conditions that could change during the five years of TCC implementation. Baseline trends relate to demographic, economic, energy, environmental, health, housing and transportation conditions.

“This first set of reports also documents progress on TCC implementation to date, including project milestones and personal stories of how TCC investments are affecting the lives of people who live and work in the pilot communities,” Karpman said. “This includes the voices of resident leaders in Ontario working to implement the site’s community engagement plan, a job trainee in Fresno learning how to install solar panels, and a high school student in Watts helping to expand a community garden.”

The first set of annual reports focuses on the period following the initial announcement of the TCC awards in 2018 through June 2019, which includes the first few months of project implementation. Common milestones across the three sites include laying the foundation for grant success, establishing partnerships and a governance structure, and launching new local initiatives around health, economic development and the environment.

UCLA’s page includes a number of other resources. Photos of residents and project staff show them working to bring their communities’ vision to reality. Supplemental methodological documentation such as open source code is available for those seeking to replicate findings. And staff bios show the evaluators involved with the project.

TCC is part of a suite of efforts, known as California Climate Investments, funded by the state’s cap-and-trade program. It unifies many of the California Climate Investments project types into a single, place-based initiative. Specifically, TCC funds the following project types:

  • construction of affordable housing near transit;
  • installation of rooftop solar and energy efficiency improvements for homes;
  • purchase of electric vehicles, including buses, that can run on clean energy instead of fossil fuels;
  • expansion of bus service coverage or frequency;
  • improvement and expansion of bike lanes and sidewalks;
  • planting of trees along bike and pedestrian routes and near buildings;
  • implementation of waste diversion programs, such as the collection and reuse of food waste and neighborhood-scale composting.

To maximize the benefits of these types of projects, grantees also must develop and implement the following transformative plans:

  • a community engagement plan to ensure TCC investments reflect the vision and goals of community members;
  • a workforce development plan to bring economic opportunities to disadvantaged and low-income communities;
  • a displacement avoidance plan to minimize the risk of gentrification and displacement of residents and businesses following neighborhood improvements.

 

 

Turner on Effects of ‘Cool Pavement’

KNX 1070 spoke with V. Kelly Turner, assistant professor of urban planning, about Los Angeles’ “cool pavement” project, part of an initiative to test strategies to adapt to climate change. The city has been pouring reflective coating on dozens of roads, and Turner is among the researchers measuring the effects. “Cool pavement is working. It greatly reduces surfaces temperatures,” she found. But she noted that the energy reflected from the cooler surfaces are radiated out and can be absorbed by the human body. As a result, pedestrians walking on “cool pavement” surfaces during the middle of the day may feel warmer, Turner found.


 

Turner Tracks Effectiveness of ‘Cool Pavement’ Technology

A CityLab story on the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to pursue “cool pavement” technologies to address rising urban temperatures featured the research of V. Kelly Turner, assistant professor of urban planning. While other cool pavement studies have measured surface and air temperature, Turner’s research is the first to focus on “mean radiant temperature,” which is most related to thermal comfort. Turner and Ariane Middel, assistant professor of arts media and engineering at Arizona State University, studied unshaded streets in Pacoima and Sun Valley that had been coated with an asphalt mixture called CoolSeal, which reflects, rather than absorbs, the energy from sunlight. They measured air temperature, wind speed, humidity and radiation from morning to sundown, and their preliminary findings will soon be published by the American Meteorological Society. The project is one part of a greater effort to collect data on the effectiveness of strategies to address so-called urban heat islands.


 

New Grants Totaling $4.1 Million Will Build Climate Resilience UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation is a partner in two climate research grants from the Strategic Growth Council

By Colleen Callahan

Record-breaking heat and scorching summer wildfires are signs of a hotter California. As part of efforts to further knowledge and action on climate change, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) is part of two winning partnership grants ─ totaling more than $4 million ─ awarded by California’s Strategic Growth Council.

The Council’s new and competitive Climate Change Research Program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that is putting billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment. Both grants will benefit disadvantaged communities in particular.

Measuring the Impacts of Climate Change on Vulnerable Communities to Design and Target Protective Policies

A nearly $1.5-million grant led by LCI involves multiple studies of heat-related climate impacts, as well as factors that make populations and communities vulnerable, plus opportunities to build resilience. Climate change could exacerbate existing inequities, and LCI will develop tools to help government agencies target responses and empower communities.

“The goal is to increase the climate resilience of California’s vulnerable communities in the face of rapidly increasing extreme heat events,” said JR DeShazo, the grant’s principal investigator and LCI director.

The researchers include R. Jisung Park, an LCI scholar and an assistant professor of public policy and environmental health sciences at UCLA Luskin, who will assess climate change impacts on low-income workers. Gregory Pierce, associate director of research at LCI, will assess the climate risk of vulnerable built environments — including affordable housing — to better inform protective policies.

Collaborations with government agencies, nonprofit organizations and community leaders will be integral to the work. For example, civic partners will oversee the development of geographic tools to identify areas disproportionately affected by heat-related climate change and vulnerability factors. Stakeholders will also be able to identify policies, funding and other opportunities to increase resilience in vulnerable areas and among vulnerable populations such as low-income workers and residents.

The analysis of resilience opportunities will also be collaborative. A partnership with the Liberty Hill Foundation and community-based organizations will test a coordinated outreach pilot called Opportunity Communities to promote clean and affordable energy, transportation and associated financial assistance for low-income households. Researchers will assess the effectiveness of this strategy to build financial and health resilience to climate change impacts.

Climate Smart Communities Consortium

A partnership grant led by UC Davis and the UC Institute of Transportation Studies will also involve LCI. This $2.6-million grant to a multifaceted group of researchers from seven academic institutions will tackle the challenge of transportation-related environmental impacts, which fall disproportionately on low-income communities of color. Researchers will seek solutions that reduce emissions and improve the mobility and quality of life for California’s most vulnerable communities.

LCI will collaboratively study interrelated areas of innovative mobility, electrification and freight movement, using equity and policy engagement lenses as crosscutting themes. Research will center on regional case study initiatives and statewide initiatives to demonstrate findings.

The Strategic Growth Council brings together multiple agencies and departments to support sustainable communities emphasizing strong economies, social equity and environmental stewardship. For updates during implementation of the latest grants, see LCI’s climate action program at innovation.luskin.ucla.edu/climate.

 

Climate Funds Create Jobs Luskin Center for Innovation releases study that quantifies statewide employment benefits from billions of dollars in California Climate Investments

By Colleen Callahan

Amid debate over extension of California’s cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions released into the environment, researchers from the Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) at UCLA studied and quantified the number of jobs supported from the statewide initiative known as California Climate Investments, funded by cap-and-trade revenues. 

The Luskin Center for Innovation has now released the new study as California considers the job training and workforce development needed in a lower-carbon economy under 2017’s Assembly Bill 398, which extended the state’s cap-and-trade program. 

The report “Employment Benefits from Climate Investments” focuses on the $2.2 billion appropriated between 2013-14 and 2015-16 to support 29 programs created to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing local economic, environmental and public health benefits. The programs include investments in public transit, clean vehicles, transit-oriented affordable housing, clean energy for low-income communities and ecosystem restoration.

Many of these programs also induce consumers, businesses and government entities to contribute matching funds. The largest example of induced co-investment is the $3 billion in federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project, which would not be available without the state’s match in cap-and-trade auction proceeds, according to the researchers.

“We found that the $2.2 billion in California Climate Investments supports about 19,700 jobs, and $6.4 billion in induced co-investment supports an additional 55,900 jobs, for an estimated total of more than 75,000 jobs in California,” said JR DeShazo, the principal investigator of the study and director of LCI.

Jobs supported by California Climate Investments are diverse and cut across many different industries and economic sectors, ranging from the manufacture of clean vehicles to the restoration of degraded wetlands, according to the study.

“Given their diversity, California Climate Investment-related jobs can serve as a sample of the types of jobs supported by California’s transition to a lower-carbon economy,” said researcher Jason Karpman MURP ’16, lead author of the report. “Since California Climate Investments are one component of the state’s broad suite of strategies for addressing climate change under Assembly Bill 32 [the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006], the jobs reported in the study represent a fraction of the total jobs supported by the state’s effort to decarbonize.” 

Of the many economic sectors directly impacted by California Climate Investments, the construction industry stands to gain the most (54 percent of total jobs), according to the report. This is because of the significant level of investment going toward the construction of public transit systems and the construction of multiunit affordable housing near transit, among other investments. The sector receiving the second-highest number of job gains due to investments is architectural, engineering and related services. 

Impacted industries employ both blue-collar and white-collar workers. For example, the architectural and engineering sector is known for creating white-collar jobs that pay middle-class salaries. Many blue-collar construction jobs funded by California Climate Investments are covered under the state’s prevailing wage law and requirements for enrollment in state-certified apprenticeship programs. This system is designed to ensure that public works construction jobs resulting from California Climate Investments support broad occupational training and provide family-supporting pay and benefits to workers. 

“The industry-level findings in this study can be a springboard for better understanding the quality of jobs that are supported by large public investments in greenhouse gas reductions,” Karpman said. 

The modeling tool used for the LCI study focuses on quantifying job flows rather than providing granular detail about job quality, training, access for workers in disadvantaged communities and other important components of employment benefits. Because the study identifies the industries involved in each California Climate Investment program, it could be used to more deeply analyze job quality metrics that characterize those industries, including pay, benefits and career advancement opportunities. 

The study found that the California Climate Investment programs that generate the most jobs in California (per million dollars invested, as determined by their employment multiplier) devoted a greater share of investment dollars to services rather than materials. In addition, the employment multiplier of a program was also positively influenced by the share of investment dollars going to firms based in California rather than to out-of-state firms. 

“The findings could inform recommendations for legislators and agency leaders interested in maximizing the number of jobs supported by California Climate Investments,” DeShazo said.  

The researchers note that state agencies could design or update programs to involve sectors with high employment multipliers, such as social services, agriculture, forestry, engineering and construction. Administering agencies could also consider incentives for grantees that contract with vendors located in California and stipulate that they purchase materials manufactured in California, when possible. The findings suggest that these considerations, along with job quality considerations, could help the state ensure multiple employment benefits from its future investments. 

The amount of California Climate Investments appropriated annually has increased significantly since the study period’s $2.2 billion, to a total of now $6.1 billion.  

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