Extreme heat predicted across the United States has President Biden making new plans to protect workers and water sources.
According to climate scientists, this July is the hottest month that humanity has ever recorded. High ocean temperatures in the Atlantic, crushing heat waves in the American south, droughts and extreme heat in countries all over the world, even a heat wave in Antarctica. It’s a worldwide problem, and despite decades of science predicting this, we are caught unprepared.
Phoenix, Arizona has had almost a solid month of days exceeding 110F. Scientists there warn that a power outage over 24 hours could leave over 800,000 people, half the city’s population, in need of medical care due to heat. Fortunately, Phoenix runs on nuclear power, so such a large outage is very unlikely.
Long-term solutions, while mostly too late, are taking most of the conversation, but the people suffering in this extreme heat need protection now. According to federal statistics, heat has killed 436 workers on the job since 2011, most of them in the past 5 years. There are likely many more deaths unreported as being caused by heat, as a heat-struck employee can go home and die of a heart attack hours or days later, or have their death attributed to a work accident when heat causes them to pass out on the job.
To this end, President Biden is working on helping employers protect their workers and ensuring that they do. He has directed the Department of Labor to more regularly inspect potentially dangerous workplaces, such as farms and construction zones. He has also instructed them to be more rigorous in penalizing heat safety violations.
To make it easier for employers to plan around extreme heat events, the Biden administration plans to spend $7 million to develop more detailed weather predictions to anticipate extreme weather like heat waves.
Since even with prediction and enforcement, there are still populations with fewer resources to withstand the heat, another $152 million is being put to boost drinking water infrastructure and climate resilience in hard-hit states like California, Colorado, and Washington.