Utah's Scorching Heat: A Harsh Reality of Climate Change and Its Impact on Vulnerable Communities
Wha’s the Deal with Heatwaves
Wha’s the Deal with Heatwaves
The scorching heat in Utah is not just making us sweat, but it’s also exposing us to the harsh realities of climate change. As the temperature rises, we are witnessing more frequent and intense heat waves, worsening air quality, water scarcity, and changes in our ecosystem that could lead to the spread of diseases. Sadly, the most vulnerable communities such as the elderly, children, and low-income families are the ones facing the brunt of these impacts.
In this blog post, we’ll dive into the impact of rising temperatures on health and equity in Utah and also explore some actionable steps that need to be taken to mitigate these risks.
Global rising temperatures are triggering heat waves that are not only uncomfortable but also constitute serious health hazards, particularly for vulnerable populations. Lack of access to air conditioning, shelter, or other resources, especially in low-income communities, amplifies these risks and can lead to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
With the temperature rising, the air quality in Utah is also deteriorating, particularly in urban areas. This is due to ground-level ozone formation, wildfires, and increased dust exposure from declining water levels in lakes like the Great Salt Lake. This decline in air quality can be especially harmful to people with respiratory conditions like asthma. For those living in marginalized communities, where research indicates higher background pollution levels, these effects are compounded.
As the climate is changing, Utah’s ecosystems are also being altered in ways that could lead to the spread of vector-borne diseases like West Nile Virus and Lyme disease. Such diseases pose a significant risk to communities with limited access to healthcare and to preventive measures.
The good news is that we can take action to mitigate these risks. We need to prioritize the needs of marginalized communities in climate and health planning and implement heat mitigation strategies like increasing access to cooling centers and shade. We also need to improve air quality, promote water conservation measures, support climate-resilient infrastructure, and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.
Let’s work together to address the dangerous impacts of rising temperatures on health and equity in Utah. We can make a difference and protect our communities for generations to come.
Did you know that there are many shelters throughout the valley in Utah that would greatly appreciate your time and resources? Many of these shelters are even accepting volunteers as well as much-needed items like water bottles and heat-protective clothing. Whether you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness or you are looking to donate time or resources, this list is a great place to start.
End Utah Homelessness: End Utah Homelessness has a community resource guide that can help navigate individuals to housing resources, utility aid, and many other free or low-cost resources visit their guide for more details: https://endutahhomelessness.org/salt-lake-valley/community-resource-guide/
Utah Homeless Assistance: The Utah Department of Workforce Services offers a comprehensive directory of homeless services and resources across the state. You can access the directory on their website: https://jobs.utah.gov/housing/
211 Utah: Dialing 2-1-1 in Utah connects you to the United Way 211 helpline, which can provide information and referrals to a wide range of community services, including homeless shelters and support programs.
Homeless Shelter Directory: Websites like Homeless Shelter Directory (https://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/utah.html) provide a list of shelters, transitional housing, and supportive services available in various cities across Utah. Please note that contact information may vary, so it’s best to verify the details directly with the organizations listed.
Remember to reach out to the specific organizations or helplines provided to get the most accurate and up-to-date information on homeless shelters and resources in Utah.
Gif source: New York Times
Heatstroke, also known as sunstroke, is the most serious form of heat injury and constitutes a life-threatening medical emergency that requires immediate intervention. Even lesser forms of heat injury, including heat cramps and heat exhaustion, must be taken seriously and treated to avoid progression into heat stroke.
Heatstroke is a serious medical emergency that occurs when the body overheats, leading to symptoms such as high body temperature, altered mental state, hot and dry skin, rapid pulse and breathing, nausea and vomiting, and headache and muscle cramps. Immediate treatment is necessary, including calling emergency services, moving the person to a cool area, and using cooling techniques. Prevention is key, including staying hydrated, avoiding prolonged exposure to extreme heat, seeking cooler environments, wearing lightweight clothing, and taking regular breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas. Children, older people, and those working outside tend to be more susceptible. Learn more here.
We have the power to mitigate the effects of climate change. By accelerating the transition to renewable energy, promoting energy efficiency, investing in sustainable transportation, implementing land use policies that prioritize the needs of marginalized communities, and holding big polluters accountable, we can take meaningful steps towards a more equitable and livable world. And that’s not all – we can also enhance our climate resilience, prioritize environmental justice and promote climate literacy and awareness amongst the general public. These are big challenges, but working together can create a more just and sustainable future for all. Are you with us?
Influence Policy: Elected officials have the power to write and implement policies that address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You can express your concerns and encourage them to prioritize climate action by contacting them. Your voice can help shape legislation and policies to mitigate the impacts of rising temperatures.
Communicating with elected officials about your experiences of climate change and increasing temperatures can motivate them and influence their decisions about what policies to support or oppose. constituents should introduce themselves, identify themselves as constituents of the official, state their concerns, provide supporting information (data or personal experiences), offer solutions, request action, and be respectful and concise. constituents can demonstrate their passion and urgency about the issue and show elected officials that their constituents care about climate change and expect action.
Find out who represents you on a state level here.
Get civically engaged Your voice matters in the fight against climate change! In addition to communicating with your elected officials, you also have the power to shape policies and regulations on climate change and heat by participating in public consultations, submitting comments, attending hearings, or joining advocacy campaigns. This is your chance to directly influence the development and implementation of climate action plans that are effective, solutions-focused, and ambitious.
Participating directly in decision-making processes is important for addressing climate change. By sharing your experiences and knowledge, you can ensure policymakers hear your concerns and motivate them to prioritize climate-related issues. It also reinforces the importance of evidence-based decision-making, builds coalitions and alliances, holds decision-makers accountable, and promotes equity and justice in climate policies. Engaging in these processes fosters civic participation and strengthens democratic values.
Stay in the loop with groups such as HEAL Utah to receive alerts on upcoming public comment periods. Also, make sure to check out your city’s website to see when you can speak up during a council meeting.
Air Plan Disapprovals; Interstate Transport of Air Pollution for the 2015 8-Hour Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards. (2023, February 13). Federal Register. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/02/13/2023-02407/air-plan-disapprovals-interstate-transport-of-air-pollution-for-the-2015-8-hour-ozone-national
COBI. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2023, from https://cobi.utah.gov/2023/1/issues/20444
US EPA, O. (2015, May 15). Ground-level Ozone Pollution [Other Policies and Guidance]. https://www.epa.gov/ground-level-ozone-pollution
US EPA, O. (2016, June 21). Ozone Designation and Classification Information [Data and Tools]. https://www.epa.gov/green-book/ozone-designation-and-classification-information
US EPA, O. (2022, February 10). Good Neighbor Plan for 2015 Ozone NAAQS [Other Policies and Guidance]. https://www.epa.gov/csapr/good-neighbor-plan-2015-ozone-naaqs