Governor Newsom announces plan to deal with extreme heat


Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration this week announced an extreme heat plan that includes recommendations for monitoring heatwave-related deaths and the possible setting of temperature limits for residential units.

The plan’s release follows the release of an investigation by the Los Angeles Times that found California has done a poor job of tracking the number of people who have died from extreme heat and largely failed to allocate resources to communities People who are most vulnerable to the heat are effects of heat and global warming.

“Extreme heat threatens public health and safety, economic well-being, and communities and natural systems, with profoundly disproportionate consequences for California’s most vulnerable,” officials with the California Natural Resources Agency said in a statement.

The extreme heat action plan released Monday is essentially an update of the state’s 2013 recommendations.

This year, a group of state agencies led by the Department of Health and Human Services and California’s Environmental Protection Agency issued more than 40 recommendations to prepare for extreme heat. Recommendations included that the health department should make death surveillance “more up-to-date” during heat waves.

The Los Angeles Times investigation found that the state has heeded little of its own advice.

A spokesman for the state Department of Health told the Times that the agency is still working on the recommendations and has made progress on six of them. When asked why they had not completed the proposals identified in 2013, state officials cited a lack of funding as the reason.

The new recommendations are tied to $300 million in funding committed in last year’s budget.

“I think it’s a great first step,” said Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of Los Angeles-based nonprofit advocacy group Climate Resolve, which focuses on climate change adaptation.

While there is some funding, Parfrey said, additional significant investments need to be made for pilot programs that he believes could yield huge returns in the future. Some of these programs can be as simple as building shelters and water fountains at key bus stops, or as complex as finding ways to reduce heat trapped in cities.

“Climate change is here and it’s getting worse every year. What investments can we make today that will save us money over the next few decades? There are things we can do now that will save us money and save lives with public health,” Parfrey said.

Perhaps one of the most significant recommendations concerns setting a temperature limit for dwellings. California law and building codes require residential units to have heating, but air conditioning is not required.

“As it is now, refrigeration is being used more as a convenience than a necessity,” Max Wei, a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told The Times reporters as part of the investigation. “We wouldn’t think homes in the Northeast or Minnesota wouldn’t need stoves. So why would we think houses in hot areas don’t need air conditioning?”

A workshop to gather public feedback on the plan is scheduled for January 24th. Governor Newsom announces plan to deal with extreme heat

Tom Vazquez

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