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Answering President Obama’s Call to Use ‘Climate Data’ to Grow Economy, Increase Resiliency

The UCLA Luskin Center and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released new maps as part of the Graduated Density Zoning tool designed to help local leaders identify opportunities to invest in clean energy jobs and strengthen climate resiliency in vulnerable communities. The maps are a response to President Obama’s new Climate Data Initiative, a call to action to leverage data in order to stimulate innovation and climate change preparedness.

“The UCLA Luskin Center, along with our research partner the Environmental Defense Fund, looks forward to being part of a national movement bringing data to bear to help communities, companies and citizens effectively prepare for climate change,” said Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the Luskin Center.

The maps debuted at the Investment Justice through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund working conference on March 21 and also at the Environmental Forum hosted by Assembly member Mike Gatto on March 29.

“Data mapping tools like the LASER Atlas provide powerful visualizations of the effects that climate change can have on our most vulnerable communities, while also highlighting opportunities for economic growth, job creation and increased resiliency,” said Jorge Madrid of the Environmental Defense Fund.

For example, one map underscores that disadvantaged communities in L.A. County are benefiting from the installation of rooftop solar, with over 1,400 solar systems in low-income neighborhoods in just the investor-owned utility areas of the county alone. Yet another map in the LASER Atlas shows that we are only beginning to tap into L.A. County’s tremendous capacity to generate solar power. And doing so could reduce the need to fully operate polluting power plants in the region.

The maps also illustrate that residents of L.A. County are disproportionately impacted by environmental risks but, in turn, could disproportionately benefit from upcoming investments from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. This Fund provides a new opportunity to invest in renewable energy, as well as clean transportation and sustainable communities, to combat climate change and create jobs. SB 535 requires that at least 25 percent of the monies from this Fund go to projects that provide benefits to disadvantaged communities.

The LASER Atlas research contributes to UCLA’s Grand Challenge Project “Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles,” whose goal is for the Los Angeles region to use exclusively renewable energy and local water by 2050 while protecting biodiversity and enhancing quality of life.