While snow and rain pose their own challenges, it’s hard to escape exposure to outdoor heat, even with a hat, water, and light clothing. While thoughts of summer may conjure up images of swimming pools, beaches, and vacations, what we often forget is that exposure to outdoor heat is a major health risk that goes well beyond. beyond sunburn.
Daily headlines reflect the reality of the ongoing heat waves this summer, from the very first excessive heat warning issued in Colorado to drought conditions in the western United States. the the last decade
was the hottest ever recorded and off-the-chart heat indices
are a real concern in the decades to come. These heat patterns are not surprising. For decades, scientists have sounded the alarm bells about global warming, which is contributing to changes
from sea level, loss of sea ice, and yes, longer and more intense heat waves.
Globally, 37% of heat-related deaths
during the warmer months can be attributed to climate change. This is consistent with a recent study
by researchers at NASA and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, which shows that the amount of energy the planet is currently absorbing is almost double that of fifteen years ago.
This causes what is known as Earth’s energy imbalance – the difference between how much solar energy is absorbed by the planet and how much is sent back into space. Many factors contribute to this imbalance, including the increase in greenhouse gases
in the atmosphere, which trap excessive levels of heat which are then reflected back to Earth. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases, is currently 48% more than in 1850
So what is the impact of global warming on health?
Heat causes a wide range of problems ranging from dehydration and heatstroke
at an increased risk of heart disease
suicidal kidney disease
and even death
. Children are less able to regulate body temperature
compared to adults. For this reason, they are more sensitive to heat stress
when they are doing something as simple as playing outside on their summer vacation.
Health risks affect different populations depending on many factors. For example, urban heat islands occur disproportionately
in communities of color. Urban heat islands are defined as built environments that are warmer than their surrounding rural environment, often due to human activity. A study of 108 urban areas
found that neighborhoods that were once marked red, a historically racist practice that denied loans to people of color outside certain areas, were warmer than other neighborhoods. Outdoor workers
in construction or agriculture are also exposed to heat for prolonged periods, which means they face increased health risks in order to earn a living.
When I look at what climate change means for the health of people, the urgency for climate action has never been greater. Global warming poses serious risks to our health, well-being and existence that can only be addressed with resounding support for climate legislation.
Legislative changes at all levels of government should include initiatives to expand green spaces and use solar energy for schools
updating housing and equipment standards improve energy efficiency
. Investments in Infrastructure
should be focused on tackling climate change, whether it’s introducing clean electricity standards or new transportation initiatives, as outlined in the Biden administration paper American employment plan
. By tackling the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions, we would also protect our health.
Whether you’re an outdoor worker, a kid who enjoys swimming, or someone just trying to make it to a doctor’s appointment, the health risks of the heat are inevitable. Any bill that expands infrastructure without a strong climate component is a lost opportunity to address persistent threats to public health.