Covid-19 and Extreme Heat will challenge the resilience of American communities at the confluence of the pandemic and climate change this summer and beyond. People most affected will seek cooling centers when heat becomes a health risk yet social distancing will complicate how communities provide, or don’t provide, that resource.
Convergence of Extreme Heat and Housing Vulnerabilities
Most affected are low income families with children, elderly, outdoor workers, and/or health-challenged individuals. With greater demand for cooling, energy bills will be high and grid failure more likely from increased demand. These forces impinge disproportionately on the least able to respond. How will communities plan to meet these contingencies? Add in drought, wildfires, violent weather, and communities will be hard pressed to respond effectively. We can also expect these conditions to worsen without climate mitigation efforts to stabilize the earth’s rising average temperature. Now, imperatives of Covid-19 response complicate these efforts altogetrher.
Experts from NOAA’s One Health and Integrated Climate and Weather Extremes , Arizona State University’s Knowledge Exchange for Resilience at ASU, and Healthy Urban Environments at the Global Institute of Sustainability came together to discuss current collaborations on heat and health and give examples of how communities are beginning to respond. The webinar drew over 800 participants from around the world. Here is a link to the Security and Sustainabilty Forum that sponsors experts and visionaries focused on responding to climate change in all sectors of society. I highly recommend it to citizens and leaders alike.
Critical Points for Resilience Planning in Communities
- The Resilience Dividend will be more apparent to leaders as the cost of not making the investments for resiliency rise exponentially.
- NOAA has joined with health agencies to create the National Integrated Heat Health Integrated Information System.
- A Global Heat Health Information Network (GHHIN) publishes a Heat Action Plan and sponsors Master Classes for communities and leaders to organize resiliency strategies in communities. These begin in May.
- Shelter against the heat is critical.
- Covid-19 has already overburdened our healthcare system. Increased emergencies and hospitalizations from extreme heat will further stress healthcare systems.
- Some solutions are surprisingly straightforward: creating shade corridors and providing water along the way on thoroughfares from house to bus and work, or walk from home to school in the most affected neighborhoods.