Photo courtesy Union of Concerned Scientists
A recent study from the Union of Concerned Scientists warns that, without drastic intervention, Florida temperatures will rise to life-threatening highs as soon as 2036, thanks to global heating.
The study, named “Killer Heat in the United States
,” analyzes the projected impact of three potential scenarios for global emissions intervention: “no action,” “slow action” and “rapid action.” Without action to combat the rise in national temperatures, the Central Florida area will experience 123 days clocking in with a heat index above 100°F between 2036 and 2065. By the last quarter of the century, this projection rises to 155 days, more than five times the historical average of 30 days.
“If we wish to spare people in the United States and around the world the mortal dangers of extreme and relentless heat, there is little time to do so and little room for half measures,” the study states. “We need to employ our most ambitious actions to prevent the rise of extreme heat.”
There is no set definition for “extreme heat.” For this reason, the study considers the combined effect of humidity and temperature, also known as “feels like” temperature, to determine the thresholds for measurable extreme heat.
The importance of humidity in these measurements is no accident. High humidity deters the human body's ability to regulate its own temperature, and as Florida is known for its elevated humidity levels, residents of the Sunshine State may find themselves at increased risk in the coming years.
“Over the last 30 years, on average, exposure to extreme heat was the top cause of weather-related deaths in the United States,” the study states.
Extreme heat is the catalyst for a variety of health issues, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, as well as increased rates of heart attacks, cardiovascular mortality, and respiratory mortality. These effects are disproportionately felt by children, the elderly, those with illness, pregnant women, the impoverished and outdoor workers.
In addition to health concerns, extreme temperatures also pose a threat to livestock. Today, heat stress costs the average U.S. dairy farm an estimated $39,000 annually, and this is projected to climb.
While rapid action can temper these impacts, no level of intervention will prevent a global rise in temperatures. In order to keep the rise in temperatures at bay, the study asserts certain measures as necessary, like government investment in updated temperature measurement systems, plans for targeted assistance and evacuation for at-risk communities, investments in heat-smart infrastructure, and aggressive action to move away from carbon-emitting power sources.
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