When Jonathan Parfrey was given funding in 2009 to address an intractable problem in Los Angeles, he chose climate change.
As the director of the now-defunct Green L.A. Coalition, Parfrey discovered that many people couldn’t wrap their heads around what climate change actually was. So when he executed his idea for a nonprofit in 2010, its purpose was to get Angelenos ready for climate impacts.
“Even though [climate change] is a global issue, people experience it in their own cities and communities,” he said. “So we took this global issue and made it local because we wanted to make people feel like they could make a difference locally.”
And that’s where Climate Resolve comes in. Up until the nonprofit was founded eight years ago, there was no organization in the city addressing climate change, said Parfrey, its executive director.
To achieve its mission of reducing pollution and preparing the city for the effects of climate change, the organization started by cooling down urban areas.
“We’ve created a city that warms 6 to 12 degrees hotter than it would be otherwise,” Parfrey said. This warming is called the urban heat island effect, which means the air temperature inside a city is warmer than in surrounding areas. And this warming is due largely to human activity, asphalt and concrete streets, all of which pose a bigger threat as our planet heats up.
By the year 2041, L.A. will have three times as many days above 95 degrees annually as it does now, Parfrey said, citing research conducted by UCLA.
And to address that, the nonprofit is making efforts to cool the city and make energy use cleaner, starting with climate-ready roofs.
“We’re providing low-income homeowners with structurally sound cool roofs topped with solar panels — to help families save energy and reduce greenhouse gases,” reads the organization’s website.
In L.A., where only half of the residents have air conditioning, there is concern that low-income families will suffer from more frequent hotter days. By providing cool roofs to less affluent communities, the nonprofit is acknowledging how climate change will adversely impact some residents more than others, all while potentially saving lives from heat-related deaths.
As a result of the cooler roof efforts, the Los Angeles City Council in 2013 passed a building code mandating that all new and refurbished homes have cool roofs.
Concerning the hot asphalt that blankets the city, the nonprofit recently launched a pilot program called Cool Streets in 14 L.A. districts to help lower the surface temperature of roads.
The project, Parfrey explained, involves coating asphalt streets with a light gray slurry seal that can lower the area’s temperature by 10 degrees. It’s a project that he’s really proud of.
“No one else is doing that,” he said. “I feel that we are being influential in preparing L.A. for the effects of climate change.”
But with all of Climate Resolve’s innovative efforts, there’s still more work to be done.
For one, Parfrey said he would love to see greener and more drought-resistant communities. His vision of L.A’s future includes more trees and gardens that produce food, have native vegetation and don’t require much water.
“We are trying to find ways to get that idea funded so communities can realize they are connected and that homes can be part of the change,” he said.
And ultimately, that’s what Climate Resolve aspires to do: to make Angelenos realize that they, too, can do something to address climate change and prepare for the impacts of it. Together, they can make L.A. a more equitable, livable, prosperous and sustainable place for future generations.
Executive Director: Jonathan Parfrey
Years in operation: 8
Number of employees: 13
Annual budget: $1.2 million
Location: 525 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles, 90013