Extreme heat legislation introduced as the West Coast continues to battle record-breaking heat and wildfires
Washington (July 28, 2021) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) today reintroduced legislation alongside Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to address the rising health risks of extreme heat. The Preventing Health Emergencies And Temperature-related (HEAT) Illness and Deaths Act would strengthen and expand interagency efforts to address extreme heat, provide $100 million in financial assistance for community projects to reduce exposure to extreme heat, and issue recommendations for federal action on heat-health issues.Congressman Charlie Crist (FL-13) is introducing companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“This summer, fueled by the human-caused climate crisis, our country has experienced unprecedented extreme heat events that have killed hundreds of Americans and sent many more to the hospital. Resulting in part from the practice of historic redlining, the risks of this extreme heat have fallen disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color who have less tree cover and more pavement,” said Senator Markey. “This national problem requires a national response. That is why I am introducing the Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act to establish an interagency committee to oversee and amplify federal efforts to address extreme heat and provide financial assistance to communities to reduce their exposure to extreme heat.”
“As the climate crisis continues to cause extreme, record-breaking heat waves, we must do everything in our power to prevent further heat related illnesses and deaths,” said Senator Padilla. “This legislation will address the rising health risks of extreme heat by providing critical funding for community projects and enhancing interagency coordination so we can ensure our communities are prepared and protected – particularly low-income communities and communities of color who are bearing the brunt of this climate crisis.”
“Throughout this past summer, we’ve witnessed extreme heat events occur across American cities, leading to disproportionate health impacts on low-income communities, communities of color, and tribal communities, as well as causing a tragic loss of life,” said Senator Booker. “As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of such events, this legislation will help enhance our nation’s response and fund community projects that mitigate the health risks caused by extreme heat.”
“From the northwest, to the Great Lakes, to the east coast, this summer is off to a dangerously hot start. And while Florida’s sunshine brings welcome warmth year round, climate change is pushing summer temps to new heights,” said Representative Crist. “I am proud to work with Senator Markey to introduce thePreventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act - legislation that will strengthen federal efforts to address extreme heat, help cities better prepare for the impacts, and most importantly, save lives.”
While most heat-related deaths and illness are preventable through outreach and intervention, extreme heat events kill more Americans than any other weather event. Earlier this summer, a record-breaking heat wave in the Pacific Northwest killed nearly 200 people and endangered workers in fields and warehouses. Cities across the country—including Boston, MA, Syracuse, NY, and Minneapolis, MN—have also experienced one of their hottest starts to summer.
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE
As climate change worsens, extreme heat events in the United States are becoming more frequent, longer-lasting, and more severe. Prolonged exposure to this kind of heat can have dangerous consequences for human health, such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death. According to a recent study
, more than a third of heat-related deaths in many parts of the world can be attributed to climate change.
Extreme heat also has more serious health consequences on people living in low-income communities, communities of color, and Tribal communities. Residents of urban areas are particularly vulnerable due to the “urban heat island” phenomenon, which can cause some neighborhoods in cities to be more than 20°F warmer than the surrounding area. Resulting in part from the practice of historic redlining, these communities have been found to have less tree cover, more pavement, and consequently higher temperatures. To make matters worse, residents of these communities may also lack access to air conditioning, health care, and other tools to cope with extreme heat.
Specifically, the Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act would:
- Establish the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) Interagency Committee and enhance interagency efforts to address extreme heat.
- Formalize the NIHHIS Program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which was initiated by President Obama in June 2015.
- Require the NIHHIS Program to conduct a study on extreme heat and issue recommendations for policy, research, operations, communications, and data gaps affecting heat-health planning, preparedness, response, resilience, adaptation, and environmental justice and equity.
- Establish a $100 million financial assistance program to provide federal funding to community projects that reduce the health impact of extreme heat events, prioritizing projects in historically disadvantaged communities and communities with significant heat disparities associated with race or income.
This legislation is endorsed by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, American Public Health Association, Climate Psychiatry Alliance, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action, Climate for Health, Silka, and the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Resilience Center at The Atlantic Council.
“Heat is among the top weather-related causes of death in the United States and is poised to become an increasingly bigger threat as global warming unfolds. And yet, injuries and deaths resulting from exposure to extreme heat, while tragic, are often preventable. The Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act of 2021 is a critical and timely piece of legislation that would ensure that the United States is better prepared in the face of extreme heat, and better able to protect those communities who are disproportionately vulnerable to its effects,” said Rachel Licker, Senior Climate Scientist, Climate & Energy Program, Union of Concerned Scientists.
“No corner of the U.S. is safe from deadly heat waves--or sufficiently prepared,”said Kim Knowlton, Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council and Assistant Professor, Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “The Preventing HEAT Illness and Deaths Act of 2021 will help strengthen the nation's ability to cope with rising temperatures by filling key information gaps and directing resilience funding to communities that need it most. We can save people's lives in the face of stronger, longer, and more frequent heat waves, but we need to act now.”