Extreme Heat And The Urgency For Climate Action
It’s getting hot in here, so take climate action now!
In case you haven’t noticed, the climate crisis is continuing to make heat waves hotter, longer, and more frequent – leaving the elderly, infants and children, people with chronic health conditions, outdoor workers, low-income families, and communities of color vulnerable to heat-related illnesses and death.
Each year, extreme heat kills more people than any other climate-fueled hazard, including hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. Heat-related illnesses and deaths are often significantly undercounted, but a new report from Public Citizen found that heat causes at least 170,000 work-related injuries and as many as 2,000 fatalities each year. Between 2011 and 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics underestimated that heat was responsible for roughly 340 injuries and 40 workplace deaths. Last year, a Los Angeles Times investigation also found that California undercounts the number of residents who die in heat waves.
Over the past few weeks, intense heat waves have shattered daily temperature records, leaving millions across the U.S. to deal with dangerously high temperatures. On June 23, at least 15 states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Colorado, Nevada, and California) saw temperatures reach 100 degrees, and at least 21 high-temperature marks were set or broken. With triple-digit temperatures scorching Central California, the risk of heat exhaustion is rising for residents, especially for those who work outside. Earlier this week in San Antonio, at least 53 people died from extreme heat after being trapped in a tractor-trailer. In May, three women were found dead inside their stifling hot apartments at a Chicago senior housing facility.
There will be little relief from the heat as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that hotter-than-normal temperatures will continue through the summer. Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable – as are the high temperatures fuelled by climate change. We need urgent climate action from Congress to tackle the climate crisis and prevent further harm from soaring temperatures.