New Republic discusses why Cities Are Becoming Climate Death Traps. A new era of heat waves is here. We aren’t ready.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues throughout the United States, another deadly pandemic comes out to strike in the summer: extreme heat. Year after year, more people are dying because it’s simply too hot. As of right now, both this country and others lack even an accurate way of counting those deaths—let alone a comprehensive plan to reduce them. Thanks to climate change, it’s about to get much worse.
For the past week, the American South and Southwest have been experiencing record-breaking temperatures. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted above-average heat for nearly the entire U.S. this summer. Unprecedented, early-summer heat waves roasted the Middle East in May and Siberia in June, setting the latter on fire. Arizona had its earliest-ever hundred-degree heat wave in April—and another 110 degree heat wave in May. Spain endured 105 degree heat this month.
Climate change is making heat waves longer, hotter, and more deadly. Scientists estimate that 80 percent of record-breaking heat waves would not have occurred without human-caused warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. And urban areas, in particular, face special risk of heat deaths because of the heat island effect, in which dark pavement, roofs, and concrete absorb additional heat, making temperatures much hotter than the reported weather in any given city.