Climate Resolve

Essential workers under threat from extreme heat and wildfire; new report illuminates breakthrough protective measures

Climate Resolve releases Exhausted! Workers Confront Extreme Heat and Wildfire Smoke in California, with key recommendations to protect California’s most vulnerable workers from the impacts of extreme heat and wildfire smoke

Los Angeles – During the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers took the spotlight as they served households across the United States. However, essential workers today work in conditions that threaten their health. WIth the increasing frequency of hot days, essential workers can fall vulnerable to heat stress, heat strokes, dehydration, even death. And as an added burden, farmworkers endure inhaling contaminants and smoke from wildfires, and warehouse workers are exposed to air contaminants made more potent by extreme heat.

In releasing Exhausted! Workers Confront Extreme Heat and Wildfire Smoke in California, Climate Resolve places the spotlight back on essential workers and how climate change is affecting their lives.

The authors review the laws and regulations designed to protect workers – as well as the latest research on the economic, physical, and psychological impacts of working in extreme conditions.

Climate Resolve discovered profound gaps in the social systems intended to protect workers. The authors also made 18 recommendations for immediate action. These include:

Protecting both indoor and outdoor workers

1. Create new insurance products for hazard pay and unworkable conditions  

2. Design and build large-scale cooling projects in the built environment 

3. Make home a safe haven

4. State agencies must coordinate their approach on extreme heat

5. Cal/OSHA must be sufficiently resourced in both funds and technical support

6. Improve communication on drinking-water

7. Expand independent monitoring

8. Fix Cal/OSHA’s communications problem

9. Environmental organizations must prioritize worker health and safety

10. Develop a Cal/OSHA database on heat-related workplace incidents

11. Improve air quality monitoring at the workplace

12. Fund organizations to assist workers

Specifically protecting outdoor workers

13. Provide clean air refuges during wildfire smoke events

14. Make growers liable

Specifically protecting indoor worker

15. Prioritize adoption of the Indoor Heat Illness Prevention Standard

16. Update the California Building Code to protect warehouse workers 

17. Update international standards to include real-time indoor temperature and humidity monitoring 

18. Prioritize research into worker productivity and absenteeism

 

The city of Commerce, California currently lacks active and clean transportation options, and has historically been dominated by industrial land uses, freight traffic, and freeways. In 2020, Climate Resolve’s Ready for Tomorrow free grant writing assistance program helped the city win a first of its kind, $3.2 million, multi-year Sustainable Transportation Equity Project (STEP) grant from the California Air Resources Board that funds  bike lanes, zero-emission vehicles, tree plantings, and transit-oriented equitable development and displacement avoidance planning.

STEP is funded through California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities. Commerce Moving Forward, which encompasses all the STEP-funded projects, will make transit and mobility options safer, more comfortable, and more convenient for Commerce community members and visitors.  

Since the onset of the project in Fall 2021, Climate Resolve has co-led the stakeholder engagement process for the grant by facilitating a community-based Advisory Group and conducting outreach events. In the month of April, Climate Resolve partnered with Metro Bicycle Education Safety Training (BEST), LA County Bicycle Coalition, People for Mobility Justice, and the City of Commerce to host a four-part bike safety series in preparation for the City’s first-ever set of Class II bike lanes. The series included two virtual classes on bike safety and rules of the road, one in-person class on street skills, and a ~4-mile community ride around the city’s key corridors and destinations. Commerce residents, family members, and attendees from surrounding communities were excited to enjoy the good weather, get outside on their bikes, build new and existing relationships, win raffle prizes, and learn safe riding techniques before the installation of the bike lanes! 

This bike safety series is one of the outreach events for the STEP grant. Some other project components include: 

  • Tree People leading the planting of 400 trees along pedestrian and transit corridors 
  • The City’s public launch of new two electric shuttles and two electric buses  
  • Workshops on transit-oriented equitable development and displacement avoidance  

We want to thank our partners for helping facilitate engagement, and the community members who have been a part of the efforts.

Two father and son pairs attend the Community Bike Ride on April 23, 2022. Left to right: Daniel Lozano, Joe Lozano, Eli Parra, and Elvis Parra.
In-Person Street Skills Class led by People for Mobility Justice and LA County Bicycle Coalition on March 31, 2022.

In honor of last week’s Cesar Chavez Day holiday, we reached out to Climate Resolve Board Member, Victor Griego, a longtime community and labor organizer who worked with Chavez, to talk about the impact of Cesar Chavez’s legacy as an organizer and the lessons that we can apply to our fight for just climate solutions.

This interview of Victor Griego, President and Founder of Diverse Strategies for Organizing, Inc. and a Climate Resolve Board of Director, was conducted by Climate Resolve’s Communications Manager Armin Mahramzadeh.

Armin: What can climate organizers and the climate movement learn from Cesar Chavez and how he was able to create change?

Victor: Well, I think one of the things that I certainly learned from Cesar was, it’s not so much the cause, or the subject matter that keeps people going every day in any type of struggle, but it’s the people, it’s understanding that the work we do is affecting people’s lives. And that’s more important than the subject matter. So when we look at climate challenges, we look at how they impact children, how they impact older adults, how they impact people of color, disadvantaged communities? What are the faces? What are the people? And I think if we keep that front and center, that puts the energy into our work.

Armin: In what ways do workers rights and the effects of climate change intersect?

Victor: Well, hotter days, for example, impact farmworkers tremendously. And so when we look at the lack of proper health conditions for workers, either in the fields, in factories, wherever there’s increase in temperature, that’s a clear and simple visible impact of climate change on workers, just the heat, number one. Number two, climate change has impacted the cost of a lot of everyday services, and particularly low wage workers are impacted the most proportionately in terms of their wages and how they have to pay for services due to climate change. And an example of that is water and the lack of rain and snowpack impacts the type of water people are receiving. When temperature rises, surface water is impacted because of the contamination that comes from increased temperatures. So climate change impacts workers on a day-to-day basis. Now if you got money, sure, you could pay more money for your water bill, you can buy bottled water, you could pay expenses that increase because of the climate. But if you’re on the margin, it’s going to impact your quality of life tremendously.

Armin: How much is the fight for workers rights and conditions also a climate issue and vice versa?

Victor: Well, I think both of them are connected by one word, and that’s justice. Cesar, at the core of his work, was basically seeking justice. We could look at the topics of work environment, wages, health insurance, whatever the issue might be to the contract that they were trying to get from the growers. But at the end of the day it was respect and justice. And so when you look at climate, and the impacts that climate has on disadvantaged communities, on older adults, it’s about justice.

From farm workers harvesting broccoli in the Coachella Valley to warehouse workers laboring without air conditioning, California’s workers share the common threat of extreme heat.  With increasing frequency, workers are facing heat-related injuries.

Just one-year ago, when COVID-19 was raging, there was an enormous appreciation of essential work. With the pandemic abating, the spotlight has shifted away from essential workers.

Climate Resolve is placing the spotlight back on essential workers and how climate change is affecting their lives.

In April, we’re releasing a breakthrough report, titled Exhausted! Workers Confront Extreme Heat and Wildfire Smoke in California, which mainly focuses on climate-related struggles of farmworkers and warehouse workers.

We interviewed essential groups like the Warehouse Workers Resource Center and California Rural Legal Assistance, and workers themselves, who told story after story about employers who failed to help employees adapt to severe weather. In sum, many employers have failed to comply with the law by failing to provide adequate shade or cooling.

We also reviewed dozens of journal articles that detail the economic, physical, and psychological impacts of working in extremely hot conditions. An added burden, farmworkers also endure inhaling contaminants and smoke from wildfires, while warehouse workers breathe-in diesel exhaust from trucks.

We reviewed California and federal laws and regulations, and found significant gaps.

Funded in part by Resilient Cities Catalyst and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Climate Resolve suggests 18 recommendations, concrete ways to improve the working conditions of California’s most overheated and undervalued workers. Thankfully, the State’s new climate resilience plan affirms a few of the key problems we identify in the report.

Natalie Delgado
Community Resilience Fellow

Kristopher Eclarino
Technical Project Manager

LOS ANGELES (March 3, 2022) — Climate Resolve will be hosting its 9th Annual Coolest in LA gala on Thursday, March 3, 2022, from 6:00pm-9:00pm, at the Banc of California Stadium, a LEED Silver certified building located within walking distance of the LA Expo line. In Coolest in LA, Climate Resolve sets out to celebrate and honor dynamic climate leadership in a room full of Angelenos seeking big, bold climate action.

This year, Climate Resolve will be honoring the following local climate leaders: Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, Emile Haddad, David McNeill, and the GAF Community Matters Program.

In two years, Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando Valley) has pushed the legislative envelope by authoring four bills dealing with climate change. Her initiatives have ignited conversations around access to green space for school children and improved monitoring of dangerous air pollutants. Assemblywoman Rivas has also brought much-needed attention to extreme heat and its impact on low-income communities.

Emile Haddad is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of FivePoint Holdings, LLC, a proud “purely California company” that designs and develops mixed-use communities. Emile is an innovator and a visionary. He has worked in development since the 1980s and, in 2009, he founded FivePoint. Emile has long been passionate about addressing the housing crisis, but his equal passion for sustainability is what separates him from his peers and has made him a pioneer in the industry.

David McNeill is the Executive Officer of the Baldwin Hills Conservancy, an organization whose mission is to acquire open space and manage public lands within the Baldwin Hills area. In his role at the conservancy, David is creating a first-of-its-kind climate resilience project. He’s striving to transform the Baldwin Hills Parklands by increasing access to green space, strengthening climate emergency preparedness, and fostering systems of sustainability. In completing these vital projects, the Baldwin Hills Parklands can soon serve as an innovative resource for the community.

GAF is North America’s largest roofing and waterproofing manufacturer. GAF’s commitment to protect what matters most includes making a positive difference as neighbors and partners in communities across the country. In Los Angeles, GAF is dedicated to urban heat reduction and mitigating the serious consequences of rapidly rising temperatures. Through its GAF Community Matters program, the company leverages its expertise, resources, and products to build resilient communities. GAF has played a vital role in sustainability and climate resiliency through its innovative technologies, from installing cool roofs to the application of reflective pavement coatings and so much more.

The emcee for the gala will be Randall Winston, an attorney at O’Melveny & Myers, who previously served as Governor Jerry Brown’s Executive Director of the California Strategic Growth Council, where he oversaw a total of $1.3 billion in climate investments. A specialist in environmental law and policy, Liane M. Randolph, Chair of the California Air Resources Board, will be the event’s keynote speaker.

At Climate Resolve, we set out every single day to combat the catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis. However, it’s not lost on us that humanity is facing a more immediate, all-consuming disaster: the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a spring and summer of renewed hope, recent weeks have seen the pandemic take a turn for the worse. We are currently experiencing record-breaking infections, more than tripling the record seven-day average set over a year ago in January 2021.

Hospitals around the country are at or over capacity. Healthcare workers are exhausted and overwhelmed. Children are being hospitalized at a record rate. Teachers are getting sick and schools are unsure of how to operate.

Dealing with systemic issues, these struggles can get lost in the noise, so we want to take a moment to acknowledge them. While we’re physically distanced, we still strive to be here for each other.

At this point, after 63.6+ million cases and 844,000 deaths in the United States as of January 12, we’ve all been touched by the pandemic. Some more than others. Like the climate crisis, communities of color and low-income people have been hit the hardest. But nobody is immune.

The climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic are analogous and even amplify each other in many ways. Yes, they’re both global issues. Yes, they’re both serious emergencies with tragic consequences. Yes, vulnerable communities suffer the most by inaction.

But the most crucial parallel between the climate crisis and the pandemic is that neither can be fought alone. Inasmuch as day-to-day small efforts are helpful—driving less, planting trees, or wearing masks, quarantining, and testing—individual actions alone are insufficient to beat back the problem. Big, bold, transformative social actions are needed—employing massive resources from government agencies.

Without a serious collective effort to address the pandemic, we’ll continue to see major disruptions to daily life and needless injury and death. On the climate front, we need bold action to address failing infrastructure, extreme weather events, and displacement. And to arrive at the place where we prioritize the health, safety, and living conditions of people above all else: we’ll need compassion.

At Climate Resolve, we have been directly impacted by COVID. Your household may also be going through trying times. These are no small matters, and we are in this together.

When we stick together, work together, and care for one another, we’ll get through this.

Yours in solidarity,
Climate Resolve Staff

Los Angeles County did it right. The City of Los Angeles botched it.

What is “it”?

The story starts in 2015 when Governor Brown signed SB 379, a brilliant bill by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson that tasks California’s municipalities to start preparing for climate change – preparation that begins with an update to each city’s local general plan.

General plans are the right place to start as they serve as the jurisdiction’s guide to the future.

The deadline for the new climate-aware plans was January 1 of this year.

In other words, cities and counties have had six years to think about the climate problem, to talk with their constituents about wildfire and heat waves, to draft language on how to better protect their residents, and to submit their plan to elected officials for approval.

Pin a star on the LA County Department of Regional Planning. They did a beautiful job. They took data from the County’s Climate Vulnerability Assessment. The County held numerous public meetings, deftly managed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The County also produced a superb website and multilingual explainer videos. It should come as no surprise then that the finished product, the County’s Safety Element Update, is comprehensive and useful.

Contrast that with the City of Los Angeles Planning Department’s effort. Planning staff admitted to us that the Safety Element was wholly eclipsed by the department’s heavy lift in updating the City’s Housing Element. (Hey, I feel for the department as they were recently sued by the perpetually wrong AIDS Healthcare Foundation.)

Unfortunately, the City’s newly adopted Safety Element failed to provide a usable analysis of climate impacts. Nor does the plan address the City’s significant vulnerabilities. Nor did the City engage the public. The update promises adaptation planning in the future – yet a promise is not an action. The City is currently out of compliance with state law.

Climate Resolve was proud to help win SB 379 in 2015. And we’re proud to have helped create the state’s Adaptation Planning Guide, which helps cities comply with SB 379. And we’re proud to have contributed to the County’s breakthrough Climate Vulnerability Assessment. And we’re excited to today help LA City neighborhoods factor climate change into their local planning efforts.

Citywide planning is another story. The next step will be to help the City right-the-ship on its climate planning. Stay tuned.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 1, 2021

CENTENNIAL AT TEJON RANCH IS SETTING NEW STANDARDS FOR FIRE SAFE, SUSTAINABLE, AFFORDABLE MASTER PLANNED COMMUNITIES IN CALIFORNIA

In a major new agreement, the master planned community of Centennial, which has already committed to include 18% affordable housing units, will now achieve a net zero carbon project status that exceeds California’s climate goals; and include new wildfire resilience measures to significantly enhance safety both in and outside the community.

(Tejon Ranch, CA) Tejon Ranch Co. (NYSE: TRC) and Climate Resolve, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, today announced an unprecedented agreement regarding the Centennial at Tejon Ranch master planned community. The planned development of more than 19,300 homes and 10.1 million square feet of commercial and industrial space, which has received approvals from Los Angeles County, may now proceed to the next steps in the California development process. 

Centennial, which has committed to include 3,480 affordable housing units as a part of its Los Angeles County approvals, will now also become a greater net zero project, meeting and exceeding all the state’s goals and requirements to combat climate change.

The enhanced climate and wildfire resilience measures contained in the agreement set a new standard for development in California and represent the largest climate investment by a housing development in the state, a milestone achieved through the cooperation of both Tejon Ranch and Climate Resolve.

As part of the agreement, Climate Resolve has agreed to dismiss with prejudice its claim that the County of Los Angeles violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it approved Centennial in May of 2019. 

With the dismissal of the lawsuit, Tejon Ranch Co. retains the legislative approval needed to continue the process that will lead to the development of a well-planned and critically needed community that will bring thousands of homes and jobs to Los Angeles County.  

The agreement includes the following measures and features.

  • Net Zero GHG Emissions: The community commits to net zero GHG emissions by reducing to zero all emissions through significant on-site and off-site commitments. A large component prioritizes disadvantaged communities, followed by other projects within Los Angeles County, and other parts of southern and central California.
  • Electric Vehicle Advancement: Advance the EV future through commitments to install almost 30,000 chargers within and outside the community. Provide incentives to support the purchase of 10,500 electric vehicles.
  • Wildfire Prevention: Funding for on-site and off-site fire protection and prevention measures, including fire-resilient design, planning, and vegetation management with benefits to neighboring communities.
  • Unrivaled Transparency: Provide annual public reports and create an organization empowered to monitor progress to ensure the agreement results in the benefits identified. 

 “We are pleased to reach this agreement with Climate Resolve that will enable us to address California’s housing crisis in the most sustainable manner possible,” said Gregory S. Bielli, President and CEO of Tejon Ranch Company.  “Tejon Ranch has a legacy of environmental stewardship, as well as using its land to meet major needs in California.  More than ever, the state desperately needs the 19,333 housing units Centennial will provide, including the nearly 3,500 affordable units.  At the same time, California needs to achieve its climate goals.  This agreement outlines a way to create this unique climate-friendly, fire-safe, affordable mixed use master planned community that helps California address its housing needs consistent with the state’s policy goals.”

“Working with Tejon Ranch, we’ve been able to secure the largest climate commitment by a housing development in the state’s history,” said Jonathan Parfrey, Executive Director of Climate Resolve.  “We’re setting a new climate standard that surpasses anything previously done in the state. Our agreement builds upon the 2008 Tejon Ranch Conservation and Land Use Agreement and takes the added steps of further protecting the land from the threat of wildfire and zeroing-out greenhouse gas emissions at the Centennial project.”

Both Tejon Ranch Company and Climate Resolve look forward to working together to implement an agreement that sets a new precedent for the development of fire safe, sustainable communities that will meet the needs of California today, and in the future.

####

Contact:

For Tejon Ranch:

Barry Zoeller, Senior VP of Corporate Communications & Investor Relations

bzoeller@tejonranch.com | (661) 663-4212

For Climate Resolve:

Bryn Lindblad, Deputy Director

blindblad@climateresolve.org | (213) 634-3790 x 102

It was another smoldering day in Southern California in 2014, when our Climate Smart Schools team started to conduct energy audits for the Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD). Thermometers read 100°F in the classrooms. The elementary school kids were putting their heads down on their desks to try to cool off. Teachers walked along the rows of desks with water-filled spray bottles to mist and cool their students. 

Only 15% of the buildings in the district’s 70 campuses had air conditioning. Much of the A/C that did exist was damaged, inoperable, or inefficient.

Some of the teachers experimented with large floor fans. Needless to say, not all solutions are created equal. The loud fans blew students’ papers off their desks and made it difficult for the kids to focus or to hear their teachers. One teacher spoke into a microphone headset connected to a speaker system to try to teach students over the noise of the fans. 

School districts throughout the state are trying to educate the next generation while enduring the increasing impacts of climate change in the classroom. Extreme heat makes it significantly harder for teachers to teach and for students to learn. We recommend reading the research of our colleagues at UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation showing that “learning decreases with an increase in the number of hot school days.”

Although it is a low-income district with a culture of frugality, GGUSD ultimately passed a school district bond to pay for new HVAC on every campus. However, the new A/C would pose another major challenge: As a district with a tight budget, GGUSD’s energy costs could skyrocket; it was projecting energy cost increases of more than 100% from the A/C. Not to mention paying off the bonds. GGUSD would need to find a way to reduce its energy consumption with building retrofits and energy efficiency measures. 

Thankfully, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act (Prop 39) provided $11.5 million for energy efficiency to GGUSD. 

A decade ago, Climate Resolve helped place Prop 39 on the ballot – with major kudos going to Tom Steyer and Kevin de Leon for this successful initiative. Prop 39 closed a corporate tax loophole and allocated $2.5 billion over 5 years to energy efficiency and solar investments in California’s public schools. 

After conducting energy audits, Climate Resolve and the firm EcoMotion provided its assessment and recommendations to GGUSD’s Facilities Department to help the district tie together energy efficiency measures as part of a district-wide building modernization effort.

So what happened in the seven years since our initial audits?

The district implemented its comprehensive building modernization program that included LEDs, greater daylighting, and lighting controls; cool roofs that reflect the sun’s energy and moderate classroom temperatures; insulation, double-pane windows, and other updates to building envelopes; high efficiency pool heaters, pool covers, and electric pumps that reduce natural gas use; new digital thermostats with centralized controls; and an energy management system that we helped them install to track real-time energy usage, water consumption, and metrics for further improvement. 


And that’s just to name a few. From renovating the electrical circuitry and plumbing to upgrading the telecommunications systems to providing new drinking fountains to retrofitting the schools for better accessibility for the diabled, there was hardly a crevice of GGUSD that wasn’t significantly upgraded by the district’s Facilities Department. In addition to Prop 39 funds, Climate Resolve also helped GGUSD win a $2 million state DROPS grant for drought mitigation. Then we helped them manage the design and development of natural stormwater capture and drought mitigation solutions at three high schools, and also implemented a climate education and outreach program with students, teachers, and staff. These new bioswales and drought-tolerant landscapes have become living laboratories for GGUSD’s science classes.

For the past 7 years, our team took the Prop 39 paperwork off the hands, desks, and desktops of GGUSD’s Facilities Department. We managed all of the reporting requirements for the uses of funds and project performance metrics to the California Energy Commission, which approved GGUSD’s final report this month. So it’s time to celebrate!

In addition to assisting GGUSD’s physical transformation, Climate Resolve supported a cultural transformation at the district. Seven years ago, the district was concerned that going green would compromise its need for fiscal frugality. Today the district is enjoying energy cost savings even with new A/C. And the district wants to do more.

“Our work at Garden Grove Unified is proof that improving a building’s energy efficiency is essential when addressing climate resiliency,” said Thelma Briseno, Climate Resolve’s Senior Director of Energy & Water Programs. “Insulation, double pane windows, and cool roofs all contributed to the overall energy savings even though GGUSD added an enormous amount of energy use from installing much needed air conditioning to classrooms.”

But what do the students notice the most? They can learn comfortably.

“Students and teachers are now able to concentrate on learning,” Briseno explained. “Forcing our kids to concentrate in 100°F temperatures is insufferable. Now GGUSD can continue providing award-winning education while successfully minimizing the impacts of extreme heat.”

Climate Resolve is GGUSD’s proud partner. If GGUSD can do it, then other school districts can also become resilient to climate change and foster better places to learn for future generations. 

Greetings from Glasgow, site of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

I’m here, representing Climate Resolve, at the invitation of the UK government.

Our bus shelter project is getting featured. We’re one of twelve finalists from around the globe that will take the stage at the Climate Challenge Cup Innovation Showcase and Award Ceremony later this week. If you’d like to cheer us on, you can livestream it on the main COP26 YouTube feed this Wednesday, November 10, 10:00am-12:00pm PST. 

The project is a seemingly simple one – put bus shelters where they’re needed most – and yet achieving that simple goal requires advocacy. Right now, less than 1 in 4 bus stops in the City of Los Angeles have shelters. Most of the existing shelters are located in neighborhoods where ad dollars from the marketing panels prove profitable. It’s as if the prime function of a bus shelter is that of a billboard. Where bus riders could really use shade is a secondary consideration.

Climate Resolve staff worked with the public agency StreetsLA to introduce heat exposure and transit ridership data as the primary factors that will determine where new bus shelters should be sited. We partnered with community-based organizations Pacoima Beautiful, Slate-Z, and Investing in Place to engage with transit riders, to demand more bus shelters. Our advocacy has resulted in a commitment from the City of LA that within the next five years, 3,000 new bus shelters will be added to the sidewalks of LA. Combined with the less than 1,900 that currently exist, the cumulative impact will be to shade at least 75% of all transit trips in each Council District across the City.

Bus riders deserve a more dignified experience, and we’re proud our efforts are delivering that for them.

Representing this climate justice project at COP26 is a great honor. 

I’m also looking forward to hearing stories from around the globe, from people taking on the climate challenge.

I invite you to follow my dispatches from Glasgow via Climate Resolve’s social media channels: Instagram stories, Twitter feed takeovers, and some Facebook posts, too.

#TogetherForOurPlanet

Bryn Lindblad

Deputy Director

Climate Resolve