SALT LAKE CITY (Associated Press/ABC4 News) – The Biden administration is moving to protect workers and communities from extreme heat after a dangerously hot summer that spurred an onslaught of drought-worsened wildfires and caused hundreds of deaths from the Pacific Northwest to hurricane-ravaged Louisiana.
Under a plan announced Monday, the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and other federal agencies are launching actions intended to reduce heat-related illness and protect public health, including a proposed workplace heat standard. White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy called heat stress a “silent killer” that disproportionately affects the poor, elderly and minority groups. While not as dramatic as wildfires or hurricanes, “heat stress is a significant, real threat that has deadly consequences,″ McCarthy said in an interview.
The effort to address heat stress comes as President Joe Biden is working with world leaders to hammer out next steps against rapidly worsening climate change. Biden on Friday announced a pledge with the European Union to cut climate-wrecking methane leaks, and he is expected to address climate change when he goes to the United Nations on Tuesday.
A June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, exacerbated by climate change, caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of emergency room visits for heat-related illnesses, In Louisiana, more than a million people, including the entire city of New Orleans, lost power when Hurricane Ida struck on Aug. 29. At least 12 of the 28 Ida-related deaths in Louisiana were caused by heat, according to the Louisiana Health Department.
As part of the administration’s plan, the Labor Department is launching a program to protect outdoor workers, including agricultural, construction and delivery workers, as well as those working indoors in warehouses, factories and kitchens. Farm and construction workers are at greatest risk of heat stroke and other problems, the White House said, but other workers lacking climate-controlled environments also face risks.
Kerry Kelly, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion. She shared what made her decide to focus her chemical engineering background towards air quality, the connection between global warming and air quality in Utah, whether 2021 has been an unusual year for Utah’s air quality, and her projects such as the real time air quality sensor systems, Salt Lake County map, and helping small businesses become more energy efficient.
Matt Yost, Assistant Professor of Agriculture and Applied Sciences at Utah State University talked about why he became interested in his field of study, how Utah performs with small and large-scale agriculture, what crops are affected with extreme drought and how producers are dealing with it, what a one to two-degree increase in temperature would mean for our state’s crops, and what can be done to better manage our water supply.
Elisabet Curbelo and Hasse Borup, co-chairs for Artivism for Earth at the University of Utah discussed why art is so important when talking about climate change, whether artists can make a difference in addressing global warming, some of the projects their group have implemented and become involved with, and what’s next in the future of their project.
To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Kelly, Yost, Curbelo, and Borup, click on the video at the top of the article.
Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.