Joe Biden launches plan to protect Americans from 'silent killer' of extreme heat
Joe Biden has launched a series of measures to protect Americans from the "silent killer" of extreme heat, with dangerous temperatures exacerbated by climate change. It follows a hot summer that spurr
Joe Biden has launched a series of measures to protect Americans from the "silent killer" of extreme heat, with dangerous temperatures exacerbated by climate change.
It follows a hot summer that spurred an onslaught of drought-worsened wildfires and caused hundreds of deaths across the country, from the Pacific Northwest to hurricane-ravaged Louisiana.
Extreme heat is now the leading weather-related killer in America, according to data from the National Weather Service.
Under the plan, announced on Monday, the US Departments of Labor and of Health and Human Services as well as other federal agencies have implemented new actions to reduce heat-related illness and protect public health.
The measures include:
- Launching a programme to protect outdoor agricultural, construction and delivery workers as well as those working in factories, warehouses and kitchens.
- Inspections on days when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees fahrenheit (26.7 degrees Celsius)
- Expansion of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program, which offers help with buying air conditioning units or paying electric bills with targeted outreach to at-risk households.
- Expanding the use of schools and other public buildings as cooling centres.
- Communities urged to implement “Adopt a senior citizen” programmes..
White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy called heat stress a "silent killer" that disproportionately affects the poor, elderly, and minority groups.
While not as dramatic as wildfires or hurricanes, "heat stress is a significant, real threat that has deadly consequences", she said.
"Many people don't recognise that heat stress is a real physical problem until it's too late for them,″ Ms McCarthy added.
It comes as the President works alongside world leaders to figure out the next steps against rapidly worsening climate change.
A June heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, exacerbated by climate change, caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses.
Meanwhile, in Louisiana, more than a million people, including the entire city of New Orleans, lost power when Hurricane Ida struck on 29 August.
At least 12 of the 28 Ida-related deaths in Louisiana were caused by heat, according to the Louisiana Health Department.
Farm and construction workers are at greatest risk of heat stroke and other problems, the White House said, but other workers lacking climate-controlled environments also face risks.
"Rising temperatures pose an imminent threat to millions of American workers exposed to the elements, to kids in schools without air conditioning, to seniors in nursing homes without cooling resources, and particularly to disadvantaged communities,'' Mr Biden said in a statement.
"As with other weather events, extreme heat is gaining in frequency and ferocity due to climate change, threatening communities across the country.''
The administration will also expand urban forestry programs and other "greening" projects to reduce extreme temperatures and heat exposure.
On Friday, the US president announced a pledge with the European Union to cut climate-wrecking methane leaks.
Findings from scientists concluded that the world is nearing the point where the level of climate damage from burning oil, gas and coal becomes catastrophic and irreversible.
Those accounts "represent a code red for humanity", President Biden said on Friday, citing a recent UN report that Earth is getting so hot that temperatures in about a decade will probably blow past a level of warming that world leaders have sought to prevent.