clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

All the Ways Global Warming Will Make Los Angeles Less Healthy

New, 2 comments

Warmer temps will bring more super-hot days and disease, and hit the poor hardest

All the maps of the Westside of Los Angeles under water address the most frequent fear associated with global warming, but a huge part of the impact that rising temperatures will have around the world will be on public health. In Los Angeles, says the LA Times, we'd see more extremely warm days, which would mean more smog and a variety of health repercussions that come along with worsened air quality. But that's not even the half of it. Here are some of the biggest warming-related threats to public health.

—"By 2050, the Los Angeles area is expected to warm by 5 degrees on average," which will increase smog. More smog means more asthma and also more heart disease.

—By the same time, the number of "extreme heat days," where temperatures rise above 95 degrees, could go from an average of six a year (measured from 1981 to 2000) to 22 without a major change to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

—In the San Gabriel Valley, where there are already an average of 32 extreme heat days a year, the number could shoot up to 74 by 2050.

—Warmer weather has already brought diseases to areas where they don't usually occur, and will continue to do so. In Southern California, we now have the Aedes mosquito, which spreads the Zika virus, and is also known as the yellow fever mosquito, which shouldn't even be here. It's not native to the US and didn't start showing up in SoCal until last year. Since last year was a record-setting scorcher, it was pretty much "optimal for Aedes to expand," says the manager of the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District.

—The mosquito threat might make people want to stay inside, but trying to hide from the heat can cause public health problems, too. "[T]he L.A. region doesn't have the infrastructure to deal with very hot weather — such as ubiquitous air conditioning." (Heat is mandated in rentals, but not cooling.) People with health problems might find that they are worse in the heat, and if they're staying inside with no air conditioning, they're throwing themselves in harm's way.

—LA's heat island effect is the worst in the state, meaning that the concrete and asphalt landscape can push temperatures as much as 20 degrees higher. The good news here is that LA now requires new homes to be built with roofs that absorb less heat and is testing road-paving material that soaks up less heat too.

—LA's rash of lawn-ripping-out probably exacerbated its heat issues, as grass is cooler than concrete or gravel or pavement. And even if the removed lawn was replaced by other plants, there is probably more uncovered ground than before the lawn was removed. And that just doesn't keep things cool like grass.

—As it stands, all these effects will have an extra-strong affect on LA's less affluent communities, a USC researcher warns. Those in poorer communities often live in areas with less green space, in apartments without air conditioning, and without personal transportation to get them to a place with air conditioning to cool off.