LA County Climate Vulnerability Assessment 2021

LA County Chief Sustainability Office
Posted on: 12/07/2021 - Updated on: 12/08/2021

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In recent years, LA County has experienced record-breaking high temperatures, prolonged drought, and more intense wildfires. Each unprecedented event strains our communities, directly harming our health, infrastructure, and the natural resources we rely on. Such climate hazards are projected to become increasingly severe and frequent in the coming decades. This report, the LA County Climate Vulnerability Assessment (CVA), fulfills a commitment outlined in the OurCounty Sustainability Plan, identified by stakeholders as a top priority: to assess how people and infrastructure in LA County may be vulnerable to the changing climate. The County’s vision of sustainability demands that we work to understand increasingly dangerous threats.

High climate vulnerability is generally defined as a combination of increased exposure to climate hazards; high sensitivity, or susceptibility, to negative impacts of exposure; and low adaptive capacity, or ability to manage and recover from exposure. A map of social sensitivity, which shows the geographic distribution of LA County residents with heightened susceptibility to climate hazards.

The CVA builds on a solid foundation of climate research to analyze vulnerability in LA County—examining climate risks to the County’s diverse people and places, including populations with heightened susceptibility to climate impacts, across unincorporated communities and 88 municipalities. Developed by the Chief Sustainability Office in collaboration with a wide range of partners, this report includes four key components:

  1. The Climate Hazard Assessment: evaluates potential changes in the frequency and severity of specific climate hazards (extreme heat, wildfire, extreme precipitation and inland flooding, coastal flooding, and drought) resulting from climate change in the coming decades.
  2. The Social Vulnerability Assessment: looks at the level of risk across communities and populations and identifies groups and places that are highly vulnerable to climate hazards—these groups and places experience high susceptibility and likelihood of increased exposure to climate hazards.
  3. The Physical Vulnerability Assessment: examines how physical infrastructure and facilities across the County face risk of damage from climate hazards and outlines how damage to highly vulnerable facilities could affect people and society.
  4. The Cascading Impacts Assessment: explains how infrastructural systems rely on one another and how harms to one type of infrastructure can affect other facilities, related services, and the people who rely on those services.

Equity is the core focus of this report. Vulnerability, in the context of this discussion, does not signify any kind of innate individual weakness; to understand how climate hazards and adaptation strategies may impact people differently, we looked at structural inequities and other factors that put some people at greater risk of negative impacts. We used qualitative and quantitative methods to create a combined approach that highlights the voices, stories, and experiences of frequently excluded, highly vulnerable groups.


OurCounty Sustainability Plan. LA County Climate Vulnerability Assessment (2021). LA County Chief Sustainability Office.

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