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6 Things to Know About Climate Change and Heat Waves • The Revelator
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6 Things to Know About Climate Change and Heat Waves • The Revelator

buildings with a/c units


It’s hard not to think about how hot it’s been — even if you live somewhere that has escaped the heat in the past few weeks. British Columbia clocks temperatures of 121 F, it gets the world’s attention. As it should.

Here are six reasons to pay more attention to heat waves.

1. Deadly Numbers

Heatwaves may seem to lack the drama of other weather events with named storms and categorized wind speeds, but they’re actually the most deadly severe weather event.

Last week’s heat domeThe fact that the Pacific Northwest was locked in a heat-sucking vice is a reminder. It is estimated that the British Columbia prolonged record-breaking heat wave claimed at least 62 lives. around 300 lives. Another 76 deaths have been reported in Washington, Oregon.

Across the world, things have been heating up — with deadly results. Heatwaves occurred between 1998 and 2017. killed 166,000 peopleAccording to the World Health Organization, this is a staggering figure. That includes 70,000 who perished in Europe’s 2003 heatwave.

2. Climate Change?

Climate change is, unsurprisingly, making things worse. The frequency of heatwaves has increased due to an increase in global temperature. In the coming years, climate change will make heatwaves worse and more persistent.

People who stay indoors and crank up the air conditioning put more pressure on the electrical grid. New researchThese extreme weather events are causing more infrastructure failures.

For example, power outages have increased by 60% since 2015. Combining excessive heat with blackouts in major U.S. towns would have disastrous results. The Detroit area is the most affected. researchers found in their modeling? That could leave 450,000 people at risk of dangerous temperatures and a massive 1.7million Phoenix residents dependent on air conditioning.

3. Humidity’s Dangerous Side Effects

The West is experiencing a severe heatwave that has caused serious concern about wildfires.

aerial view of fire
An aerial image of the McKay Creek fire in British Columbia acquired by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 on June 30, 2021 during the region’s record-breaking heatwave. NASA

Heatwaves in more humid areas have doubled in 40 years. This is another type of threat.

Our bodies produce sweat to cool us. But when the relative humidity is too high that moisture from our skin can’t evaporate as well and we don’t cool down. Scientists have discovered the related phenomenon. wet bulb temperature 95 F is the upper limit for what we can tolerate in extreme heat and humidity.

Models predict that by midcentury, wet bulb temperatures will reach 95 F. But new researchIt is evident that areas in South Asia and the coastal Middle East, as well as the coastal Southwest of North America, are already reaching this critical point.

4. Inequity makes it hotter

Not all people will face the same risks — even if they live in the same cities. It is possible for neighborhoods with less green space and less trees to be 20 degrees hotter than those with more roads and larger buildings.

The journal published a 2020 study of 108 cities Climate found that areas with higher temperatures are almost always the same neighborhoods that have experienced historic racist housing policies such as “redlining.”

“This study reveals that historical housing policies may, in fact, be directly responsible for disproportionate exposure to current heat events,” the researchers wrote. Another recent studyIn Nature CommunicationsThe study found that people of colour are more at risk than whites for high heat exposure in all but six of 175 largest cities in the United States.

5. Wildlife at Risk

People aren’t the only ones feeling the heat. The Pacific Northwest’s recent heatwave also threatens cold-water-loving salmon. The Columbia and Snake rivers this year are seeing temperatures within two degrees of the “slaughter zone” that killed 250,000 sockeye in 2015, The Seattle Times reported.

The heatwave occurred at the height of the sockeye runs and also when spring, summer chinook, and steelhead were migrating. Some fish are being pulled out from the river and hauled to hatcheries in preparation for spawning.

“We are crossing the line to temperatures that can be disastrous for fish,” Michele DeHart, manager of the Fish Passage Center, told The Seattle Times. “I would say the outlook is pretty grim.”

6. Vicious Circle

The hotter it gets, the more fortunate people who have air conditioning crank up the dial and the longer they’ll need to leave it running. In a world that is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, this means more greenhouse gases that will continue heating the planet.

Already 10% of the global electrical usage is caused by people who use electric fans and air conditioners to keep cool. according to the International Energy Agency. As temperatures rise and more people are able to afford A/C, expect that number to increase.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), air conditioning will be a major driver of electricity demand in the next 30 years. “Without action to address energy efficiency, energy demand for space cooling will more than triple by 2050 — consuming as much electricity as all of China and India today,” the agency reports.

This makes it necessary to high-efficiency coolingIt is vital. Not to mention the widespread use of renewable energies and, of necessity, a reduction in climate-related emissions.

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The deputy editor of The RevelatorShe has worked as a digital editor, environmental journalist, and digital editor for over a decade. Her work focuses on the intersections and energy, water, climate. Her work was published by The Nation? American Prospect? High Country News? Grist? Pacific StandardOthers. She is the editor for two books on the global crisis of water.

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