What Are Orange County Cities Doing to Prepare for Climate Change?

As experts warn the climate crisis could bring the next test for Orange County officials’ public health response, residents are increasingly questioning what they have done to prepare.

International organizations point to cities as some of the biggest drivers of climate change and its looming health threats.

Cities consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce 60% of greenhouse gas emissions — all while taking up 2% of the earth’s surface, according to the United Nations

[Read: From Covid to Climate: Experts Warn OC is Walking Unprepared into Next Public Health Crisis]

To this point, some Orange County city officials say they have taken steps toward addressing climate change issues, making changes in their cities like altering thresholds for opening cooling centers, planting more trees, considering adoption of climate plans and turning toward renewable energy sources.

Combating Rising Temperatures: Cooling Centers and Tree-Planting

Establishing cooling centers is just one way that some cities have addressed rising temperatures, especially when it comes to some of the most vulnerable groups of people like the elderly and homeless.

During a period of intense summer heatwaves and rolling blackouts last year, Buena Park officials lowered the temperature threshold that triggers the city’s opening of its public cooling centers where people with no air conditioning at home can find relief. 

The city’s move also triggered regional questions over the availability of cooling centers throughout Orange County, as well as their accessibility and ways to make them more enticing for residents.

[Read: Local Officials Rethink Public Access to Cooling Centers Amid Heatwaves, Climate Change]

“Our policy is typically when we see the weather in the mid-90s or above, we open those cooling centers for our residents,” Buena Park City Manager Aaron France said. “That’s something that we religiously do around here just to make sure those who don’t have access to climate control in their home have a place to go.”

France also described the city’s emphasis on alternative forms of transportation, including a city employee ride-share program. Officials have also issued approximately 1,200 solar permits during the past five years and are looking into integrating more electric vehicles into the city fleet.

Tree-planting is another way to help keep temperatures low.

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