US Cities Brace for Another Summer of High Heat

US Cities Brace for Another Summer of High Heat

US cities have notched record high temperatures in recent weeks, prompting some state and local governments to enact regulations as preparations begin for another dangerously hot summer. Following last summer’s historic heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon’s workplace safety agency is implementing some of the strictest safety measures in the nation. It will require outdoor employers to offer more breaks, water, and access to shade when temperatures reach 80 degrees and above.

TODAY: Heat Advisory Issued For Record Warmth In Northeast And Midwest, May 21, 2022.

BBC: Past seven years hottest on record, EU satellite data shows, January 10, 2022.

The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 30, 2021.

Why This Matters

Experts predict extreme heat will become 100% more likely as climate change progresses, increasing the occurrence of heat-related deaths and illnesses. Last year, the Pacific Northwest heatwave killed more than 500 people. Thousands of people in Europe’s Mediterranean region died from the hottest weather in years. For places already accustomed to high temperatures, scorching summers pose an even direr threat. Some scientists believe the Middle East could become uninhabitable altogether.

As temperatures rise, the stakes of implementing protective regulations for workers are more urgent. Heat is particularly deadly because symptoms of heatstroke often do not appear until it is too late, making it a "silent killer,” explained Kathy Baughman McLeod to NBC News.

McLeod is the director and senior vice president of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center at the Atlantic Council.

BBC: Deadly heatwaves '100 times more likely' due to climate change, May 18, 2022.

MSNBC: We Must Pay Attention To ‘Urgent Crisis’ Of Extreme Heat Events, May 23, 2022.

Environmental Social Justice: Extreme Heat | The "Silent Killer," August 25, 2021.

A New Era Of Risk

Heat is not the only form of extreme weather posing a global threat. According to a recent report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), flooding, heat, and wildfires are made more likely by climate change and could produce simultaneous emergencies. According to the report, these crises are "feeding each other in dangerous ways,” which means we are heading into "a new era of risk” that could result in widespread catastrophe. Some consequences of the climate crisis, the report notes, have already arrived. In the last decade, 83% of disasters have been climate-related, killing over 410,000 people and affecting 1.7 billion.

The report urges governments to work together and act fast to avert disaster. It states, "No government can secure the well-being of its citizens against the escalating global crises without international cooperation.”

"Cooperation is self-interest,” said SIPRI board member and New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark. “ In fact, cooperation is the new realism.”

Bertelsmann Foundation: A Global Security Threat | Climate Change, February 28, 2022.

SIPRI: Environment of Peace report launch, May 22, 2022.

BBC: India heatwave leaves millions struggling to cope, April 28, 2022.

WW0: General Stan McCrystal and John Kerry Instagram Live conversation on national security and the climate crisis, October 27, 2020.