Keeping up With Extreme Heat
Last week, members of the House’s Science, Space, and Technology Committee were joined by four witnesses from varying backgrounds for a hearing to discuss the implications of the recent heat waves that have been sweeping the Pacific Northwest. The issue of extreme heat is nothing new in the United States, but rather has been exacerbated in recent years by issues like climate change.
The heat waves in the Pacific Northwest have led to over 100 deaths, but did not impact everyone equally. Often, low income and minority neighborhoods experience the most deaths in extreme heat, with Black Americans being three times more likely to die from these occurrences. This happens because said neighborhoods suffer from the urban heat island effect, in which concrete absorbs and retains heat, combined with a general lack of green space. Similarly, the residents in low-income areas may not be able to afford their energy bill due to a poorly installed air conditioning unit. Up to 40% of a unit’s energy efficiency can be lost if the unit is not installed properly, thus driving up the price of the owner’s energy bill. To prevent this, one should always have a qualified individual like one of the ACCA’s members perform the install.
Fortunately, extreme heat is rather predictable. Companies like Mr. Shimon Elkabetz’s Tomorrow.io are bridging the gap between weather forecasts and decision making. While people may have raw weather data, if they do not know how to interpret it, it is of no use. Therefore, companies like Tomorrow.io are giving people the tools they need to make actionable decisions based on the forecasted weather, which will then minimize harm. This technology is also being aided by the further research of Dr. Vivek Shandas, who is working on adding granularity to weather data to predict how people will be impacted by heat waves on a block-by-block basis within a city.
There are many ways that we can avoid another catastrophe in the future. One way is creating regional centers focused solely on extreme heat to help deal with the hyper localization of the issue. Another way is by making sure that homes in these areas are equipped with up-to-date air conditioning units like thousands of ACCA members are installing across the country every day. As mentioned in the hearing, upgrading existing infrastructure to better withstand extreme heat is an important part of adapting to the issues. A way to do that is by installing said air conditioning units. Public cooling centers in urban areas can also provide sometimes life-saving relief from the extreme heat. While we know ways to tackle the extreme heat in urban environments, more research is needed to find practical solutions to this issue. People often do not have access to things like cooling centers, and extreme heat is a breeding ground for various bacteria and ticks that carry Lyme’s disease.
With a cohesive approach from the federal and local governments, along with small businesses like some of our members, we can ensure that people remain safe, cool, and comfortable in extreme heat. Whether it is getting an air conditioner installed by a qualified professional, having someone perform preventative maintenance on a current unit, or making sure employees are staying cool and hydrated, one must have a plan to deal with extreme heat—no matter where you live.
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