President Joe Biden announced new measures Thursday to protect workers and communities dealing with extreme heat as millions of Americans brace for dangerously high temperatures.
The measures include an up to $7 million investment to improve weather forecasts and allow communities to better prepare for extreme weather events, according to the White House. Also included is a $152 million investment aimed at improving accessibility to safe drinking water and building resiliency for communities in the West that are most impacted by drought conditions.
The announcement comes as more than 40% of Americans — amounting to more than 140 million people — face the risk of extreme heat on Thursday, CNN reported. Heat advisories and extreme heat warnings have been issued for swathes of the country, including a large portion of the Midwest and parts of California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and more, according to the National Weather Service.
Authorities worldwide are grappling with extreme heat. Climate scientists in Europe said Thursday that July appears to be on pace to be the hottest month on record following a June that broke heat records.
“I don’t think anybody can deny the impact of climate change anymore,” Biden said during a news conference at the White House. “There used to be a time when I first got here, a lot of people said, ‘Oh, it’s not a problem.’ Well, I don’t know anybody … who honestly believes climate change is not a serious problem.”
The president will meet Thursday with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg to hear about how extreme temperatures are affecting their communities. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad will also be at the event.
The press secretary noted Wednesday that extreme temperatures seen recently have create “a difficult time for families and Americans across the country, especially out West.”
“Climate change is real,” she added. “That’s why the president has taken some historic actions to deal with this issue.”
White House officials said the president has asked the Department of Labor to issue its first-ever hazard alert for heat, which will emphasize the heat-related protections workers have. The department will also increase its enforcement of heat-safety violations, with more inspections in high-risk industries such as construction and agriculture.
Since 2011, nearly 440 workers have died due to heat exposure, government data shows.
Ladd Keith, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona who studies heat policy and governance, told The Associated Press that record-breaking heat nationwide appeared to be “very much in line with climate change projections.”
“They’re certainly a continuation of a concerning trend of climate impacts that we’ve seen,” he said.
Several Republicans have questioned the science linking climate change with recent heat waves, according to The New York Times.
“I don’t think anybody really knows,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., the newspaper reported.
On Wednesday, Jean-Pierre said Biden would “continue to take action” to address climate change. She did not rule out the possibility that the president might declare a climate emergency.
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