Can we beat the heat?

Today's Guest Blog is from Allison Crimmins, an environmental scientist with EPA’s Climate Change Division. She focuses on the impacts and risks associated with climate change, especially on human health. Prior to joining EPA, she earned one Masters degree in oceanography by exploring past climates in ocean sediments and a second Masters’ degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School. She lives, works, and judges the occasional science fair in Washington, D.C. but still cheers for the Chicago Bears.

See how recorded temperatures have risen in the
United States in since 1901 / U.S. EPA
I have an uncle in Arizona who likes to send taunting emails in the middle of winter, bragging about his region’s warm temperatures while my Midwestern family freezes. The tables would be turned in summer, and he’d get his share of emails when Arizona’s temperatures soared. Lately though, the rate of warming in the Midwest has accelerated, with temperatures rising three times as fast between 1980 and 2010 than the long-term temperature increase . With extremely hot days—the kind we’re used to seeing once in 20 years—projected to become commonplace across the U.S., there won’t be many places in the country left with bragging rights.

Heat waves have become more frequent and more intense, especially in the West, and they’re expected to become more intense across the entire U.S. Aside from making us miserable, heat waves can also make us very sick. Extreme heat is associated with increased hospital visits for cardiovascular, kidney, and respiratory disorders, and can also lead to an increased number of deaths from heat stroke and other cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

The health risks from heat are heightened in cities, where the urban heat island effect can intensify temperatures. Cities can be up to 10°F warmer than surrounding rural areas and can maintain warmer temperatures throughout the night. With more people moving to urban areas and nighttime temperatures rising faster than daytime temperatures, there’s a lot of people who can’t catch a break from the heat.

It might be easy to think this is an issue that affects “other people,” but not me. Those most vulnerable to extreme heat include children, the elderly, people who work or exercise outdoors, pregnant women, some communities of color, and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Extreme heat affects people living in cities, but also people in rural areas that haven’t needed air conditioning in the past. It affects people in Arizona, the Midwest, and everywhere in between. When you look back at that list, it’s evident that we all fit into one or more of those categories, at least at some point in our lives.

The good news is that heat related deaths and illnesses are preventable and there is a lot of great information out there to help beat the heat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has great resources on extreme heat and hot weather tips.

In addition to preparing for the heat, it’s also important to take action on climate change to help reduce these threats. EPA is taking a number of steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including cutting carbon pollution from existing power plants, setting standards to increase fuel efficiency for all new cars and trucks sold through 2025, and working closely with the private sector to promote programs like ENERGY STAR, which helps Americans save money and improves the energy-efficiency of their appliances, homes, and businesses. To learn more about what EPA is doing to address climate change, please see:

You can also take action on climate change! Since everyone uses energy, everyone can be part of the solution. To learn about simple steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint, see One of the best ways to make a difference, in my opinion, is just to share what you learn about climate change with friends and family. A good place to learn more about observed and projected climate impacts where you live is:

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