If you ask Californians how our changing climate is affecting them, they will tell you about the rash of wildfires they’ve experienced. They will tell you about water — how the recent drought changed the way they use water. And how this year’s massive rain storms impacted them. And people will tell you about our recent killer high temperatures.
Sen. Anna M. Caballero
The record-breaking September 2022 heat-wave caused 395 deaths in California, as recently reported by the Los Angeles Times. Nationally, 127 million people, one-third of the total U.S. population, suffered under extreme heat conditions this past month. One paper suggests that extreme heat costs the U.S. $100 billion a year.
Extreme heat causes more injury and death than any other kind of weather event. More people die from heat than hurricanes. More than tornadoes. More than wildfires. More than floods.
Which prompts me to ask an important question. If heat is the No. 1 climate hazard, what more can we do to address extreme heat?
Two important actions the state could take to address extreme heat include:
Have the Governor sign Senate Bill 306, which will promote comprehensive, coordinated, and effective state and local government action on extreme heat by requiring the regular updating of the state’s Extreme Heat Action Plan. The bill requires updates to include accountability measures to ensure the actions the plan calls out are implemented, including actions to truly understand how many Californians are hospitalized and killed by extreme heat and measures to protect vulnerable populations like children and the elderly.
My district is ground zero for extreme heat. When the temperature rises in places like Fresno, where the trees are few and there’s plenty of hot asphalt, people suffer during heat waves.
Merced County has, on an average heat day, 84 excess visits to the emergency room for heat-related problems. Altogether, there were 445 heat days between 2009 and 2018 in the county.
The other action is to have a robust extreme heat chapter in the climate bond. SB 867 (Allen), which I voted for, has $500 million allocated. However, I hope the final climate bond dedicates more funds to help Californians deal with heat. These investments can provide much-needed shade, hydration, and community-wide cooling solutions that will save lives.
I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Governor on both actions. Extreme heat is a very serious problem, but one we can address with the right solutions.
About the Author
State Sen. Anna M. Caballero (D-Fresno) represents the 14 District, which encompasses majority portions of Merced, Madera, and Fresno counties.