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Report: WI 'sweatier' due to climate-fueled heat

Hot weather. Thermometer in hand in front of an urban scene during heatwave.
Aleksej - stock.adobe.com
Hot weather. Thermometer in hand in front of an urban scene during heatwave.

This coming Sunday is Heat Action Day, with organizers highlighting the health risks associated with a warming planet.

Newly compiled data show in states like Wisconsin, climate change prolongs the number of days with temperatures above 90 degrees. A trio of organizations is behind the new report, which said in the past year, human-caused climate change added an average of 26 more days of extreme heat worldwide. Wisconsin experienced an extra 11 days.

Roop Singh, climate risk adviser for the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, said in looking at the effect on humans, heat waves are a silent killer.

"We don't see the same images that we see when there's an extreme flooding event or hurricanes," Singh pointed out. "We don't see the same images of houses being washed away, for example. But heat waves are only second to disease epidemics in terms of the lives lost from natural hazards."

The report emphasized local governments can be proactive in short-term and long-term planning to limit the effects. Action plans can involve getting municipal departments and nongovernmental agencies on the same page by outlining their roles in responding to a dangerous heat wave.

Fredi Otto, co-lead of World Weather Attribution and senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, said whether it is on the other side of the globe or here in the U.S., certain populations suffer at greater levels when the outdoor temperature spikes.

"Especially for those most vulnerable people living in refugee camps or conflict zones, but also elderly people," Otto outlined. "People living in poor housing in general, are those who bear the brunt of these extreme heat waves that we see across the world."

Other recommendations included designing towns and cities with cool spaces in proximity to all residents. The authors also called on policymakers to bolster safety laws meant to protect outdoor workers, and to strongly enforce existing measures.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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