Why heat waves become deadly

And how social infrastructure can save lives during extreme heat.

On The Carbon Copy podcast this week:

Over Labor Day weekend, California was blanketed by a record-breaking heat wave. Fresno reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit; Sacramento, 114 degrees. The state asked residents to cut their power use and only narrowly avoided blackouts. 

Heat waves are the deadliest weather event in the United States every year. Extreme heat is an environmental justice issue, as it disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color. This week on the show, producer Alexandria Herr takes a deep dive to understand how heat waves become so deadly and how cities can protect people from the heat.

She spoke to Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist and scholar at New York University whose research on the July 1995 heat wave in Chicago helped demonstrate how heat waves can cause cities to break down. When he looked at data from that heat wave, he uncovered a mystery: A handful of neighborhoods with similar demographics experienced vastly different mortality rates from the heat. 

The answer to that mystery is key to understanding how heat waves can be so lethal — and those lessons are being used by people working to protect communities from extreme heat today. To learn more about these strategies, Alexandria talked to Sonal Jessel, director of policy at WE ACT, and Danielle Renwick, editor of Nexus Media News.

The Carbon Copy is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

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