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Why Heatwaves Aren’t Just A Summer Problem.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “It is virtually inevitable that increases in the frequency and magnitude of warm daily temperature extremes will continue to happen.” 

 

In short, higher, hotter temperatures will continue to be more common. It is projected that 1 in 20-year annual record heat days will likely become 1 in 5-year extremes. 

We can no longer think of heat waves as seasonal events. Yes, summer is warmer. But what we now see as more frequent and intense heat waves are a consequence of climate change.

 

And sadly, heatwaves, like many other environmental issues, are hitting those lacking resources the hardest.

 

Those currently experiencing a lack of shelter here in Utah are most at risk for long-term health issues and even heatwave-related death. These communities experiencing a lack of shelter are predominantly low-income and historically BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.

 

While houseless communities are those who are being impacted the most, it is important to note that low-income households spend 8.1% of their income on energy costs, on average. In comparison, non-low-income households spend around 2.3%, on average. So when heat waves occur, low-income families have to make tough choices that make them more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses and death.

Solutions: Like many other worsening environmental crises that are increasingly affecting our daily lives, we must find ways to mitigate the worst-case scenarios while adapting to what is already happening. 

 

To mitigate harm, we must consider multiple ways to decrease our emissions, which will take both individual and collective action. Policymakers must collaborate with scientists, community members, and industry to implement effective strategies to decarbonize our energy sector here in Utah while also collaborating with federal efforts to decarbonize our nation. Act locally, think globally. 

 

Proven solutions include, 

  1. Investment in battery storage efforts to strengthen renewable energy productivity.
  2. Investing and supporting more smart growth in new developments that provides access to public transportation.
  3.  Requiring the most sustainable building codes for new construction and integrating accessible green spaces into our city planning. 

 

To adapt, we must ensure that the communities most at risk have backup systems in place to deal with the worst to come. This includes using equity and social justice as a framework to ensure better access to cooling centers and green spaces while also ensuring that these communities have a voice in design conversations for environmental policy initiatives.