It was the hottest August in recorded California history. But the question of how many people were felled by heatwaves isn’t one that’s easy to answer, according to the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper, which is publishing a series on the untold effects of extreme heat, claims California “chronically undercounts” the number of citizens who die when the mercury goes up. During this last heat-wracked decade, the state said 599 souls had perished from the weather. The Times counters that the actual number is six times that figure, with Black Californians disproportionately represented.
As far back as 2013, the state was warned by the Department of Public Health and the state EPA that citizens who couldn’t afford to stay indoors and run the AC would make up an ever-growing number of deaths. Lauren Sanchez, senior climate adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom, admits that “the state needs to be doing so much more” about a steadily worsening crisis that packs emergency rooms and leaves the unprotected dead. Neither a warning system nor heat exposure rules are in place; the state lags behind other states and nations in protecting the vulnerable against heatwaves. And we face nightmarish scenarios of a near future in which heat kills more people than diabetes. What can be done? The Times offers some suggestions.
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