People around the world are dying from heat exposure. A few cities and towns — from Phoenix and Miami here in the U.S. to Athens, Greece — are responding by hiring “chief heat officers.” It’s a step to the future of local heat resilience as the climate continues to change.
The thing about people dying because of the heat is that it doesn’t have to happen.
“All heat related deaths or hospitalizations are entirely avoidable,” said Kathryn Conlon, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of California Davis. “We can prevent them with very focused interventions and plans with the given time and foresight.”
Enter: the chief heat officer. Because Kris Ebi at the University of Washington said up until recently, heat events weren’t really the responsibility of any one person in local government. And many cities where extreme heat hasn’t really been an issue in the past don’t have the infrastructure to deal with those events.
“It is a scramble for city governments if they’re not prepared. And it is challenging, to try and stand a heatwave early warning system up in short order,” Ebi said.
She adds that the role of the chief heat officer is to coordinate all the city departments to make sure those most at risk get what they need.
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