Climate change hits close to home for LA’s Filipinos, Bangladeshis

The US is the world’s top historic emitter of greenhouse gases, yet the country’s news headlines often paint the climate picture as something happening in a distant land on a future timeline.

Not so for many in LA’s immigrant communities – who maintain strong ties to places already getting hit hard by rising sea levels and extreme weather.

Leah Tejada’s family home in the Philippines has been destroyed by repeated typhoons in the past few years. (Dorian Merina/KPCC)

We recently wrapped a series of stories on climate change, including updates on the UN-backed talks in Paris, sea-level rise, Greenland’s ice sheet melt and the key numbers behind climate science.

I also sat down with Filipino and Bangladeshi families in L.A. as they recounted how extreme weather and storm surges have shaped their homelands:

Leah Tejada was at work when she got the news: a massive hurricane had just hit near her family’s hometown on the island of Leyte in the Philippines and the emerging reports were grim.

“I was scared,” she said. “They said there’s no food, so I sent money to Manila and looked for somebody who will go by land to bring food, [like] dried fish.”

Like many Filipinos in L.A., Tejada scrambled to reach her family and send aid after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013.  When she finally got word from her three brothers – more than a week after the storm first hit – the news was mixed: they had survived, but their home was demolished. And all of them had to flee to the capital, Manila.

You can listen to the full story from KPCC here.

I also visited a local coastal community, Hermosa Beach, which is trying to take measures now to prepare for rising sea levels near its main business district.

A sand burm along the Pacific Coast in Hermosa Beach near to the pier where sea level rise is projected to flood parts of the city in the coming decades. (Dorian Merina/KPCC)

Listen to the full interview with Hermosa Beach environmental analyst Kristy Morris here. These stories capped a whirlwind period of monitoring climate negotiations leading up to the Paris deal. We’ll see what comes next!


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