City Governments Unprepared to Deal With Growing Extreme Heat

Image: Secret NYC

The Center for Public Integrity explained in their recent investigation that yearly heat-related deaths have more than doubled in Arizona in the last decade to 283.

  • Across the country, heat caused at least 10,000 deaths between 1999 and 2016 — more than hurricanes, tornadoes or floods in most years.
  • What’s more is that scientists link the warming planet to a rise in dangerous heat in the United States, as well as the spread of infectious diseases and other health conditions.
  • Federal research predicts heat stroke and similar illnesses will claim tens of thousands of American lives each year by the end of the century.

Why This Matters: Federal funding to address the rising urgency of extreme heat is severely lacking. Cities are often overwhelmed with the task of protecting residents on very hot days and there are few systems in place to ensure vulnerable populations–like the elderly–stay safe. New York City provides cooling assistance to low-income individuals and has prioritized extreme heat as part of its resiliency planning. Other cities need the resources and guidance to do the same–many are struggling to keep up.

Go Deeper: Jainey Bavishi, Director of the New York City (NYC) Mayor’s Office of Resiliency talked about the city’s plans to address the growing threat of heat in the recent panel discussion put on by us, Third Way, and the University of Michigan. It’s very much worth a listen.

In The Time of COVID: A global pandemic multiplies the deadly effects of heatwaves. The challenges posed to great Los Angeles County are similar to what many other cities around the nation could face this summer.

The Danger: As CNN reported, studies in American cities like Detroit, Phoenix, and New York suggest that most heat-related deaths occur among children and the elderly. In addition, people highly susceptible to heat-related complications include those with chronic health problems, especially respiratory problems.

  • Poorer people are at higher risk than the more affluent because they are more likely to live in housing that is less resistant to extreme heat, insufficiently ventilated and often lacking air conditioning.
  • The poorest neighborhoods also tend to have a relative lack of green space and generally more asphalt, factors that contribute to urban “heat islands,” where cities can be 2-10 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than surrounding suburbs or rural areas.

CDC Response: CPI explained that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is charged with helping cities and states adapt to threats like extreme heat.

  • Its climate program, created more than 10 years ago, is the federal government’s only sustained effort to bolster state and local health departments’ fight against global warming.
  • But the program has been hampered by a decade of underfunding, limited expertise and political resistance.
  • Though the Obama administration missed opportunities to expand the program and the Trump administration have worked to eliminate it.






































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