The platform also provides links to a variety of grant programs and other resources for building weathering, solar power installation, neighborhood greening, energy-efficient air conditioning, low-carbon transportation alternatives, planning assistance, and other assistance for schools, local governments, and low-income individuals or disadvantaged homeowners.
The idea is to empower public agencies and community groups to direct mitigation efforts where they are most needed in the pursuit of climate justice, Dialesandro said.
“Heat is kind of invisible,” he said. “They wanted to visualize how these scenarios will develop in the future and where we are now.”
The Healthy Place Index is not the only source of this type of information. Climate resilience planning has for some time focused on future forecast conditions, potential mitigation actions and climate justice issues.
Cal-adapt.org provides access to localized climate projections, for example, while the California Heat Assessment Toolfunded by the California Natural Resources Department, overlays projected adverse health heat events with data on social vulnerability, health and environmental information.
There is also the new federal website, heat.govwhich provides a wealth of information on weather conditions and health, and draws new attention to the risks of extreme weather conditions such as wildfires, drought, disease and extreme heat.
HPI Heat Edition’s ability to insert an address and create a detailed data profile sets it apart and paints “a more visible picture of the likely scenario that we’re heading towards,” Dialesandro said.
A still evolving tool
Barbara Lee, director of climate protection and resilience for Sonoma County, said the Extreme Heat Index is a useful tool for the type of planning the county has underway to help residents face the future.
While much is still in development, the county is heavily involved in developing emergency preparedness, resilient land strategies and programs to assist residents in completing individual work to help them prepare their homes for extreme temperatures.
Part of the focus is preparing for extreme heat events, which Lee noted often involve high fire risks and intentional power shutdowns just when buildings most need to be cooled.
That means increasing outreach and education about the risks of extreme heat exposure, the signs of trouble, and simple but necessary steps like consuming enough water to replace what’s lost due to heat and/or activity, Lee said .
It also means making sure people have somewhere to relax, be it a well-insulated or air-conditioned building, a shady spot, a leafy tree or other green space.
One project includes preparing the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, which currently has no air conditioning, to serve as a high-efficiency, solar-powered refrigeration center or shelter, equipped with backup batteries and backup generators if necessary, said Jane Elias, director of the county’s energy and sustainability program. The county is also working to acquire portable systems that could be deployed strategically around the county in an emergency, including to help power refrigeration units, she said.
The Energy and Sustainability department offers workshops for homeowners on a variety of climate resilience topics, from the basics of solar and battery storage to improvements in financing. The county offers funding for more than 100 types of improvements, including things like airtightness, insulation, cool roofs and improved windows. It can help with grant programs tailored to single-family, multi-family and commercial units, Elias said.
Regarding the natural environment, the county recently circulated a draft of its Sonoma County Climate Resilient Lands Strategy with a goal, among other things, to make the most vulnerable climate resilient, in part through natural buffer zones, urban flow restoration and assistance for regenerative agriculture.
The county is already seeking funding to help plan a series of connected green corridors that would run through the built urban environment, which inherently has less access to open space, Lee said.
“It doesn’t have to be one long park,” she said, but more “like beads on a string,” with a park next to a community garden next to a bike path or a farm.
Conceptually, they would run east-west through the Larkfield/Wikiup and Cotati/Rohnert Park areas and northeast of Santa Rosa toward the Springs area west of Sonoma. Another corridor is planned from northwest Santa Rosa south to Rohnert Park.
Lee said the county wants to get residents from affected areas to work on the plans with the help of community groups and nonprofits so there’s real public engagement.
“We know we’re going to experience this extreme heat,” Lee said. “We’ll be seeing them locally in the future, and what we’re doing now is figuring out all the places we need to think about and continuing to deliver the services that we need to deliver.”
You can reach staffer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.
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