Will Naming Heatwaves Save Lives?
Some experts say that naming heatwaves and giving them strength ratings, like hurricanes, could highlight the danger they pose to populations around the country. The initiative is supported by the newly-formed Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance. The group, which includes mayors, insurance officials, and other experts from around the world, argues that heatwaves need to be taken more seriously as they kill more people in the United States every year than storms and floods.
A report from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that by the end of the century, deaths caused by extreme heat around the world could nearly equal those from all infectious diseases combined today. Experts say heatwaves are an unseen risk as most deaths occur inside homes and losses become apparent when “excess deaths” exceed normal rates of mortality.
California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said heat was a particular problem for the poor who lack air-conditioning and access to green spaces. He worries COVID-19-related job losses could leave many unable to pay for cooling. “Heatwaves are a risk that has never been fully recognized but one we are currently living with,” said Lara.