The United States has announced plans for a new system to help communities prepare, plan, and recover, and make the country more resilient in future heat waves.
As large parts of the country continue to suffer from excessive temperatures president Joe Boden and the mayors of Phoenix and San Antonio met with senior politicians to draw up new ways to combat what Biden called “the existential threat of climate change”.
“I don’t think anybody can deny the impact of climate change anymore,” he added. There used to be a time when I first got here, when a lot of people said, ‘Oh, it’s not a problem’. Well, I don’t know anybody who honestly believes climate change is not a serious problem.
“Just take a look at the historic floods in Vermont and California earlier this year. Droughts and hurricanes that are growing more frequent and intense. Wildfires spreading a smoky haze for thousands of miles, worsening air quality. And record temperatures , and I mean record, are now affecting more than 100 million Americans.”
He added Puerto Rico reached a 125-degree heat index last month, San Antonio hit an all-time heat index high of 117 and Phoenix has been over 110 degrees for 27 straight days.
“Ocean temperatures near Miami are like stepping in a hot tub,” Biden continued. “They just topped 100 degrees and they’re hitting record highs around the world. And that’s more like, as I said, jumping in a hot tub than jumping in an ocean to ride a wave.
“Most people don’t realise for years; heat has been the number one weather-related killer. Six hundred people die annually from its effects, more than from floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes in America combined. And even those places that are used to extreme heat have never seen it as hot as it is now for as long as it’s been.
“Even those who deny that we’re in the midst of a climate crisis can’t deny the impact that extreme heat is having on Americans. Americans like an elderly woman in Phoenix who fell out of her wheelchair and, after five minutes on the ground, had third-degree burns.”He added experts say extreme heat is already costing America $100 billion a year.
“But none of this is inevitable. From day one of my administration, we’ve taken unprecedented action to combat the climate crisis that’s causing this,” Biden explained. “We’re using a law I got passed the first month in office called the American Rescue Plan, to help states and cities promote energy efficiency, reduce flooding, and open cooling centres.
“We’re delivering over $20 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to upgrade the electric grid to withstand stronger storms and heatwaves so we don’t cause more fires.”
He said his administration would be putting in place a series of steps to support cities and communities to increase their resilience to extreme heat.
He announced that a Heat Hazard Alert has been issued which will provide workers with federal heat-related protections.
The administration will also intensify enforcement, increasing inspections in high-risk industries like construction and agriculture.
The US Forest Service will award more than $1 billion in grants to help cities and towns plant tree that in the long term will help repel the heat and expand access to green spaces. It comes as the US Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide billions in funding to make buildings more efficient and to make them more heat-resistant.
Water storage capacity in Western states will be expanded in order to deal with the impacts of future droughts, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is launching a new partnership with universities and impact communities to improve the nation’s weather forecasts and its accuracy.
Mayor of Phoenix, Kate Gallego, added: “We feel like we are very much on the frontlines of climate change.
“We’re working to out-innovate climate change, but we need to work together to make sure all of us are on deck to address it. We need a whole-of-government approach.”