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Report: Extreme Heat Harming Americans’ Health, Security

“There is a lot we can do to better protect people and wildlife alike”

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  A new interactive report, The Rise of Extreme Heat: How Increasing Temperatures are Affecting Our Health and Security, details how the climate-fueled increases in heat are already harming Americans and what can be done about the problem.

“Extreme heat fueled by climate change is killing people, destroying homes, drying up drinking water, driving up food prices, and even impacting workers’ wages,” said Shannon Heyck-Williams, the National Wildlife Federation’s associate vice president of climate and energy. “There is a lot we can do to better protect people and wildlife alike, but we need to get serious about implementing mitigation measures now and educating people on the risks.”

Among the findings in the report:

  • Extreme temperatures and prolonged heat waves kill more than 700 people in the United States a year — that’s more than hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods.

  • There are three times as many heat waves a year as there were in the 1960s. 

  • Nearly 14 million people in the United States have been driven from their homes by extreme weather since 2008, with 3.3 million people displaced last year alone.

  • The United States was the only developed nation in the top five countries with the most internal disaster-caused displacements from 2016 to 2020.

  • Indigenous communities and communities of color are especially vulnerable to extreme heat-induced health issues and fatalities because they are more likely to live in buildings without air conditioning or adequate ventilation and in areas with poor air quality and limited tree canopy. 

  • By 2050, if no actions are taken to mitigate emissions, every region of the United States will experience an increased average number of days per year with dangerous heat conditions. 

The report underscores that local leaders should invest now in robust planning and collaboration with the most vulnerable communities, while strategically increasing the urban tree canopy in the places it is needed most. These measures can help protect vulnerable populations from death and displacement due to rising temperatures. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act include funds for these kinds of activities.

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