Cities are getting warmer. UC Researchers are trying to help.

The past week of unrelenting heat has given California a sobering glimpse of the future. We’ve gotten a taste of what a warmer planet feels like — and it’s brutal.

Researchers have long known that a warming climate will heavily impact cities. Innovation is needed to mitigate the damage in urban areas, and much of that innovation is going on at California’s top universities.

“Researchers and scientists from across the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab are working on a range of solutions to help cities and people cope,” writes the UC Newsroom’s Carolyn McMillan. “Many of those interventions focus on delivering relief to the low-income neighborhoods that are most at risk during heat waves. There is also a growing body of research aimed at developing new materials and techniques to help cities cool.”

“There is urgency to this work because it’s only getting hotter,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Ronnen Levinson.

The researchers have been studying building and paving materials that reflect the sun’s heat instead of absorbing it. While so-called “cool roofs” have been around for decades, the researchers are trying to spread the word about “cool walls.” The Berkeley Lab is currently working with the Department of Energy to get more cool walls used in construction.

A recent Berkeley Lab Energy Technologies Area project found that cool roofs and cool walls could dramatically increase thermal livability of older homes. The team made a number of recommendations to help Fresno live with a much hotter future. These include establishing design standards for residential cooling, creating a program to provide air conditioning for certain households, and establishing a heat mitigation program to track trends and policy effectiveness.

Read more about the ongoing efforts to help cities deal with climate change here.