DemDaily: Heat Wave

July 27, 2023

Heat waves spurred by global warming have swept the United States and regions across the planet in the last month, with July expected to be the hottest month on Earth since temperature records began in 1880.

In the US, more than 2,000 high temperature records have been broken in the past 30 days, with 146 million people under heat alerts nationwide.

The extreme weather is having a profound impact on human health, ecosystems, economies, agriculture, energy and water supplies, igniting devastating fires across the Northern Hemisphere.

US Temperature Highs in July: Death Valley, California: 120°120°; St. Louis, Missouri: 102°; Helena, Montana: 103°; Las Vegas, Nevada: 113°; San Antonio, Texas 102°; Salt Lake City, Utah: 105°; Phoenix, Arizona is in its 27th straight day of temperatures over 110°, with a high of 118°. The heat index, which measures how people perceive the temperature when heat combines with humidity, can be up to 30% higher than the actual temperature.

Climate change is a human-caused, global phenomenon created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas, which release carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and other gases into the Earth's atmosphere and oceans.

The resulting increased temperature trends cause sea level rise and ice mass loss worldwide, as well as shifts in plant bloom and extreme weather events.

Global Warming: The last decade has witnessed the warmest temperatures on record. Since 1880, the planet's average surface temperature has risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.11 degrees Celsius), a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide emissions.

The rise in temperature coincides with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when humans started burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas in earnest.

While El Niño, a natural weather pattern, contributes to some of the heat, researchers say the burning of fossil fuels is the main reason the heatwaves are so severe.

Greenhouse gases: The largest source of greenhouse gas emmissions, which trap heat and make the planet warmer. In 2021, according to the EPA, consumption broke down to: transportation (28%), electricity production (25%), industry (23%), commercial and residential activity (13%) and agriculture (10%).

Worldwide Temperature Highs in July: Algiers, Algeria: 119°; Sanbao, China: 126°; Nuwaiseeb, Kuwait: 128°; Cagliari, Italy: 118°; Tak, Thailand: 114°; Gabes, Tunisia: 120°. The heat index at the Persian Gulf International Airport in Iran topped 152° on July 16 -- the upper limit of what the human body is able to withstand on its own.

Biden: Help is Here
While the Biden-Harris administration has delivered the most ambitious climate agenda in US history, the results may not be felt for years to come.

In the interim, as global temperatures spike at alarming rates, Biden announced emergency measures today to protect workers and communities across the country from the unprecedented heat wave.

Noting that heat is the number one weather-relatedkiller in the US, claiming more than 600 lives annually, Biden announced prompt interventions from his administration:

• The Department of Labor (DOL) will issue its first-ever Hazard Alert for heat, and is ramping up enforcement of heat-safety violations, increasing inspections in high-risk industries while building on national labor standards for workplace heat-safety rules.
• The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is investing up to $7 million from Biden's landmark Inflation Reduction Act -- the most significant climate protection investment worldwide -- to improve our nation’s weather forecast and accuracy.
• The Department of the Interior (DOI) is investing $152 million from Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to expand water storage and enhance climate resilience in California, Colorado, and Washington.
• The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is expanding its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will work with communities to make buildings more energy-efficient and open cooling centers to keep residents safe. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also assisting communities in develop cooling centers within schools.
• The US Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture will award more than $1 billion in grants to help cities and towns plant trees, which are essential for processing CO2 and ultimately cooling the environment.

In addition, the administration launched a website called with interactive maps, weather forecasts and tips for keeping cool amid record-breaking heat.

According to a July 13-14, 2023 Quinnipiac survey, 67% of US adults are either concerned or very concerned about climate change, 60% think extreme weather events are climate change-related, and 55% think climate change will have a significant negative effect on the world in their lifetime. 95% of Democratic respondents agreed that climate change is a concern, compared to 35% of Republican respondents (MOE +/- 2.2%).

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: White House, AP, NASA, National Centers for Environmental Info, World Meteorological Organisation, SkyNews, The Guardian, NPR

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