Historically, heat has received less attention than hazards such as hurricanes or wildfires, whose visible damage to physical property draws more attention. But as extreme heat has become more frequent, longer in duration and more intense due to climate change, local, state and federal governments need to work together to address the issue and advance heat governance to create more resilient communities.

Extreme heat is the top weather-related killer in the U.S., leading to more than 1,300 deaths per year. It can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke, exacerbate preexisting conditions like diabetes, and increase the risk for preterm births and hospital admissions for mental health-related issues. Heat also affects quality of life, economic activity, infrastructure, and energy and water use.

In cities, increasing heat due to climate change is worsened by the urban heat island effect, where natural vegetation is replaced with pavement and buildings, leading to higher absorption and retention of heat. This disproportionately impacts marginalized and lower-income communities and compounds other systemic inequities, increasing impacts for those without reliable access to healthcare, energy for indoor cooling, quality housing, and thermally safe school and workplace conditions.

At the local level, policymakers can lessen the impact of extreme heat by using a framework to advance heat resilience that addresses historical injustices and the diverse needs of their communities. It’s vital that all levels of government implement a range of metrics that span scales and sectors to assess progress toward heat resilience goals. These metrics should be agreed on, collected consistently, and evaluated to better measure progress.

Read the full article about extreme heat by Ladd Keith at Smart Cities Dive.