Is Red Hot the New Black?
Last week I attended the Climate Change Forum hosted by Congressman Alan Lowenthal at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Inspiring speakers presented research on weather and ocean trends and shared their thoughts on how California can be resilient as our environment continues to evolve. Dr. Jerry Schubel, President/CEO of the Aquarium pointed out that California has a wider range of climates and environments than any other state. That gives us an opportunity and a challenge – if we learn to adapt here we will generate examples many other regions can follow. I am a fan of leadership and resiliency, and I sincerely hope the lessons learned at the NZN can be a small part of the solution.
Dr. Schuber highlighted some important (predicted) future trends for Long Beach – a longer hot season, more 95+ degree days (2 to 3 times more by 2100), continued drought, and increased air pollution. The fire season in California is considerably longer than it used to be, so we are already experiencing some of the negative effects of hotter, drier conditions. So how do we adapt? And more specifically for the NZN, how can our homes and residences adapt?
Well, heat kills. In fact, according to the EPA it is the “leading weather-related killer in the United States.” That puts it ahead of tornadoes and hurricanes and means we should all take the heat seriously (my Mom had a full-on heat stroke once and it was terrifying!) Long Beach is already working hard to provide relief during heat events, creating cooling centers at local parks and piloting swamp coolers and window film/glazing in various schools. And many of us can choose to add air conditioning to our homes. If done in conjunction with tighter windows and better insulation, we can actually add air conditioning and reduce our energy use at the same time (the NZN reduced energy use 60% even while adding A/C.) And we can try to leverage State and Federal programs that help fund weatherization and energy retrofits of low income properties. For many reasons, the poor, elderly, and children are all more vulnerable to heat events. But if we can model these properties and identify cost effective weatherization opportunities, we can help mitigate the effects of heat while reducing our City’s residential energy usage – a win-win opportunity. Secondary benefits could include improved indoor air quality and safety. We can also look for opportunities to reduce the heat island effect in our homes, by limiting our use of outdoor concrete and other heat-absorbing surfaces. Cool roof shingles like those on the NZN are another good option. Shading South facing windows can help too.
We can also continue to reduce our water usage. Long Beach still offers up to $2,500 to replace your lawn through the wildly successful Lawn-to-Garden program. Over 2,000 of our neighbors have made the switch (which can reduce your irrigation needs by 70%), and many of the gardens are lush and beautiful oases for butterflies and humming birds. And there are still incentives to install low flow toilets and other fixtures. Each low flow toilet can save up to 8,000 gallons a year – so every change, big or small, adds up.
Like Congressman Lowenthal, we are optimistic about Long Beach’s future. After all, this is a vibrant, diverse, and uniquely livable City. We know how to adapt, and we have all kinds of good folks looking for ways to make sure we stay resilient in the face of change. More than ever, I feel we are developing the tools needed to make sure this City remains great for our kids and grandkids…and that’s a good feeling.