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Scorching July 4th: Record Heat, Climate Change, and Energy Insecurity Spark Urgent Calls for Action

Isabella Deza



Amidst the United States’ Independence Day festivities this month, our planet witnessed a remarkable phenomenon – a temperature surge that propelled to unprecedented heights, marking it as the hottest day in the past 125,000 years. According to data from the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, the global average temperature reached 62.92 degrees Fahrenheit, which surpassed records in countries such as Canada and Peru. Furthermore, Zack Taylor, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, noted that U.S. cities such as Portland, Oregon, El Paso, Texas, and Tampa, Florida have also been hovering at all-time highs. These shattering temperatures are the undeniable consequences of climate change and human activities, something that even the UN secretary-general agrees with in saying how “climate change is out of control.”

Another reason for these soaring temperatures is the cyclic climate pattern known as El Niño. The last major El Niño event was in 2016, which remains the hottest year on record. El Niño, a natural climate phenomenon characterized by the warming of the Pacific Ocean, has resurfaced in June, confirmed by the United Nations (UN). The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has expressed, “We recognise that we are in a warm period due to climate change, and combined with El Niño and hot summer conditions, we’re seeing record warm surface temperatures being recorded at many locations across the globe.” Scientists concur that these indicators mark uncharted territory for climate change and the increased heat from anthropogenic global warming, which coupled with El Niño's return, is expected to result in more record-breaking temperatures.

Given the intensifying heat, the need to address issues of energy insecurity becomes ever more apparent. Energy insecurity is when individuals, communities, or countries struggle to access affordable and sustainable energy sources, which can lead to adverse economic, social, and environmental impacts. It is typically rooted in poverty and housing deficiencies, and can take forms through limited energy availability, soaring energy costs, and vulnerability to energy disruptions. According to a policy brief published in Health Affairs, over 30 million households in the U.S. suffer from energy insecurity, leaving them unable to meet fundamental needs for cooling or heating their homes. Diana Hernandez, an associate professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, further explains that this issue disproportionately impacts low-income, Black, and Latino households, which is exacerbated by structural racism and climate change, among other factors. It should not take deadly heat waves to prove the importance of protecting all American households, and especially as temperatures continue to reach extreme levels, these repercussions extend discomfort.

According to Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, July is now on track to be Earth’s hottest month in hundreds, if not thousands of years. As a result, these high temperatures not only make it impossible to work or exercise safely outdoors but also exacerbate heart and lung diseases and contribute to the deterioration of air quality. Arizona state climatologist and expert in extreme weather and climate events, Erinanne Saffell, says, “those hotter temperatures that happen when we get hotter than normal conditions? People aren’t used to that. Their bodies aren’t used to that.” In particular, heat is very dangerous for individuals who work outdoors, babies, and elderly people, which Saffell notes in her advice on addressing this issue.“[It’s] important to understand who might be at risk, making sure people are hydrated, they’re staying cool, and they’re not exerting themselves outside and taking care of those folks around you who might be at risk as well,” Saffell explains. Ultimately, it’s essential that while we grapple with these alarming surges in record-breaking temperatures, we also address the topic of climate change, as its numerous impacts continue to become more evident.


Citations

  1. Borenstein, M. W. and S. (2023, July 5). The world may have just experienced the hottest day ever recorded. Time. https://time.com/6292103/worlds-hottest-day-preliminary-record/

  2. Guardian News and Media. (2023, July 20). Leading nasa climate expert says July likely to be hottest month on record. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/en...;

  3. Guardian News and Media. (2023a, July 7). Un says climate change “out of Control” after likely hottest week on record. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/en...’out%20of%20control’%20after,likely%20hottest%20week%20on%20record&text=The%20UN%20secretary%20general%20has,the%20hottest%20week%20on%20record.

  4. Hersher, R. (2023, July 7). This Week has had several days of the hottest temperatures on record. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2023/07/05...;

  5. Jennings, K. (2023, July 10). Current climate: The Hottest Day on Earth. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/a...;

  6. Roeloffs, M. W. (2023, July 6). July 4 was Earth’s hottest day in over 100,000 years-breaking record for 2nd day in a row. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/m...;

  7. Shapero, J. (2023, July 5). July fourth marked Earth’s hottest day on record. The Hill. https://thehill.com/policy/ene...;

  8. Walling, M., & Borenstein, S. (2023, July 5). The world’s Hottest Day on record was Tuesday, scientists calculate. PBS. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/w...



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