Natural disasters claim victims each year. While scenes of water spilling onto roadways or homes with rooftops torn off make the nightly news, another force of nature is responsible for more deaths.
According to a report from the U.S. Natural Hazard Statistics, on a 30-year average from 1986 to 2015, sweltering temperatures have killed 60% more people than flooding, 85% more than tornadoes, 170% more than lightning, and 182% more than hurricanes.
On the heels of record highs and excessive heat advisories this year, it’s apparent that human-caused climate change will not factor favorably into the equation. In a piece published by The Bulletin, Peter Gleick — a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a hydroclimatologist with connections to Lawrence Livermore National Lab — points out that climate change is already causing an increase in extreme events, such as drought and heat.
“We’re not prepared for climate change, even in one of the wealthiest countries of the world and even with decades of warnings from scientists, in part because of extensive efforts of climate denial, the waffling of politicians, and legacy infrastructure built for yesterday’s climate, not tomorrow’s,” he wrote.
Gleick notes that even a 15 minute walk in excessive heat could cause illness. And those over age 65 are more at risk for heat-related health complications, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
Knowing what to do or where to go when triple digits come back around could save a life. The CDC calls for people to drink more water than usual and not wait for thirst to set in, check on neighbors or have someone check on you, don’t use the stove during a heat wave, and stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
For those who don’t have an AC, the cities of Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore open cooling centers ahead of anticipated heat waves at their respective senior or community centers. Be aware of heat stroke or exhaustion symptoms, which can be found here https://bit.ly/Indy_CDCwarning.
“This is just the beginning,” Gleick further warned. “The Earth has only warmed by around a degree or two so far and is on track for several more degrees of warming. And yet the severe imbalances we’re now experiencing in extreme weather are only going to get worse with each passing year if rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can’t be achieved. The heat extremes we’re seeing now will become the baseline — regular events — punctuated by even more extreme high temperatures as the planet warms further and weather patterns are increasingly disrupted.”
Climate change is no longer a problem for the future. We need to be vigilant in ensuring our safety now, while working together toward long-term solutions.