NEW YORK, June 1 (Reuters) - Tucson hired a forester. Miami
named a heat officer. And Los Angeles appointed a climate
emergency mobilization director.
Across the United States, cities have launched new programs
focused on dealing with extreme weather, reflecting the growing
impacts of climate change on local communities, according to
Since 2019 at least 30 U.S. cities have taken fresh action
such as hiring specialists to combat the impact of extreme
weather, including Phoenix, Houston, Louisville, Nashville, and
Oakland, according to the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation
Resilience Center, based at Washington D.C.'s Atlantic Council
Many of those cities have created posts and initiatives to
deal with worsening heat waves, seasonal wildfires or the
effects of flooding, often with a focus on poor and minority
communities, the group said.
"Local government officials have to respond to it," said
Kathy Baughman McLeod, the head of the Resilience Center, which
promotes solutions to climate impacts, in part, by partnering
with governments and bringing public and private funding to
New EPA data released in May https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-epa-climate-idCAKBN2CU230,
after years of delays during the Trump administration, showed
heat waves across the country occur more frequently, last longer
and are often hotter, that wildfires are torching more land, and
that the East and Gulf Coasts are flooding more often.
Many times poor and minority communities take the brunt,
said Alice Hill, an energy and climate policy expert at the
independent Council on Foreign Relations think tank based in New
York. "There has been a growing recognition that because they
are at greater risk of harm, more needs to be done to protect
them," she said.
Some of these cities, including Los Angeles, said they are
hoping their efforts will get a funding boost under President
Joe Biden's administration, which in January ordered that 40% of
the benefits of federal clean energy investment go to
neighborhoods that have historically been neglected.
Biden's predecessor Donald Trump downplayed climate risks
and withdrew the United States from an international pact to
slow global warming.
The Biden administration rejoined that deal, has introduced
a raft of new policies to fight climate change, and is now
building a database https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-environment-data-idUSKBN2C014F
to help it identify the parts of the country most in need of
federal assistance in dealing with the impacts of warming and
CHIEF HEAT OFFICER
Miami Dade County created a new position for a chief heat
officer earlier this year, as it prepares for ever-hotter days
The officer will focus on strategies for the Miami region to
adapt to its ever-hotter climate, with special attention on
"communities of color and low-income residents, who have fewer
resources to overcome these challenges," Mayor Levine Cava said
in late April at a news conference announcing the program.
Miami last year sweltered through 41 days with temperatures
over 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celsius) and that
figure is expected to climb to 88 days by 2050, Cava said.
Already, the newly appointed interim heat officer, Jane
Gilbert, is getting to work with an agenda that includes
creating more shaded bus stops and helping with existing plans
for planting more trees in economically disadvantaged
"Heat is the No. 1 killer of all the climate change
impacts," Gilbert said.
Those especially at risk include children, pregnant women,
the elderly, people with pre-existing health conditions, and
those with no air conditioner access, she said.
Her office will also be looking into outdoor labor standards
and creating permanent year-round air-conditioned community hubs
that can serve as gathering places in case of emergencies
including storms and heat waves.
'ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IMPACT'
In February, Los Angeles launched a Climate Emergency
Mobilization office to coordinate the city's policies on climate
change across its dozens of neighborhoods and districts.
Among its goals is to advise on "initiatives aimed at
environmental justice and equity" such as ensuring all
neighborhoods are getting trees planted to promote cooling, that
bus stops have shade and that polluted properties are
redeveloped, according to the Public Works Department.
The new office has a budget of $1.1 million for the next
fiscal year which begins in August.
Marta Segura, the office's director, told Reuters her first
steps will include consulting with a newly formed commission,
consisting of representatives from the city's seven
most-polluted neighborhoods, for recommendations on crafting an
"equitable climate action plan".
Segura also wants to gather data showing the city's
progress. "We really need to push for metrics that measure
environmental justice impact," Segura said.
The city has ambitious goals to fight climate change too,
including increasing the percentage of zero emission vehicles in
the city to 100% by 2050 and ensuring city electric utilities
source their power from 100% renewables by 2035.
Los Angeles Board of Public Works President Greg Good told
Reuters that while the state has provided some resources, the
city has been "scraping and clawing" for funding to pursue its
But he said he was hopeful that Biden's infrastructure
proposal which includes promises of climate and environmental
justice-related funding - will ultimately direct more federal
money to his and other cities so they can "take it to another
A MILLION TREES
Tucson, one of the hottest cities in the country, has hired
a climate change advisor and a city forestry advisor to
supervise the planting of 1 million trees around the Arizona
desert city by 2030.
City officials say the trees will help soak up carbon and
provide cooling, especially in its poorer districts which have
The planting initiative, so far, is relying on philanthropic
donations and city funding.
"Climate change is a public health issue, a public health
hazard, and the front-line communities that are most affected by
climate change are low income communities," Mayor Regina Romero
Romero aims for Tucson to be carbon neutral by 2030 and says
the Biden administration's spending plan will help her achieve
that goal "because it includes funding for a lot of what local
governments have to do to create this green infrastructure."
(Reporting by Ned Parker; Editing by Daniel Wallis)