When Miami-Dade County appointed Jane Gilbert its first chief heating officer earlier this year, the Miami Herald noted its importance: The heat “is deadly severe, and climate change is making it worse,” according to the editorial board. wrote.
“As the effects of heat increase, they are further compounded by storms, flooding and sea level rise,” Mayor Daniela Levin Cava said when the position of chief heat officer was announced. Gilbert’s role is to help “expand, accelerate and coordinate our efforts to protect people from the heat and save lives,” Kawa said.
Specifically, “we know that extreme heat does not affect people equally – poor communities and black and Hispanic people bear the brunt of the public health impacts,” Kawa said in a written statement.
To help protect vulnerable populations from the effects of heat, Gilbert has set a goal of increasing tree canopy across the county by 30% (by 20%), “focusing in areas where The urban heat island is the most,” Gilbert tells CNBC Make It. It is also considering updating the country’s guidelines for cool and green roofs and sidewalks, she says.
It is timely to add to such a situation: In the last week in June, a record heat wave in Washington and Oregon killed at least 90 people. According to the World Health Organization, over the past two decades, heatwaves have killed more than 166,000 people worldwide.
Gilbert shared with CNBC Make It what she sees now about what scares her the most and what’s giving her hope.
What’s Terrible Right Now For The Chief Heating Officer
“The heat dome over the Pacific Northwest is very scary,” Gilbert says, referring to the atmospheric phenomenon that causes extremely hot weather there. She also wonders whether it will be a “repeating event”.
But before the latest heat waves, there was growing fear of rising temperatures, even among the public.
In her previous role as Miami’s Chief Resilience Officer (where she was in charge of improving the city’s ability to fight through disasters and chronic stressors such as sea level rise and climate change), she worked with residents on the impact of climate change. The community went to the community to discuss changes in their neighborhood that might “heat greatly” as an area of concern, Gilbert says, as were the risks of heat mixed with a storm that could lead to widespread power outages. can become the reason.
Miami’s temperatures are rising. She says there are now 27 more days in the year than when Gilbert moved to Miami in 1995 and temperatures exceed 90 degrees.
“If we stay on our current emissions trajectory, we’re going to have a heat index seven days a year with [what the temperature feels like to the human body, a combination of heat and humidity] 105 or more, which is very dangerous, up to 88 days — about three months — a year by mid-century,” Gilbert says. “So it becomes very dangerous.”
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), exposure to extreme heat can lead to heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke and death. The NIEHS states that extreme heat “can exacerbate preexisting chronic conditions such as various respiratory, brain and cardiovascular diseases”.
The rising heat is especially dangerous for people who have to work outside, such as agricultural and construction workers, landscapers and park workers, Gilbert says. In addition, rising heat is dangerous for the elderly and otherwise vulnerable, Gilbert says.
Another top concern for Gilbert is the impact of climate change on the safety of buildings, in light of the fatal collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, in Miami/Dade County.
It’s scary, Gilbert says, because, “in part, it may have been caused by saltwater flooding over its foundation for too long.” Such increased flooding could be the result of sea level changes due to climate change.
This means that “buildings may be at greater risk than we know,” Gilbert says.
To be clear, the official cause or reasons for the building’s collapse have yet to be determined. But questions are being asked about the relationship with climate change.
We’re living “in some degree of unknown territory, in terms of sight” [physical] Demand for buildings that we didn’t expect, whether driven by climate change… floods once a year where we don’t expect floods, or more often, high-speed thunderstorms,” said structural engineer Benjamin W. Schaefer, professor of civil and systems engineering and director of the Ralph S. O’Connor Sustainable Energy Institute at Johns Hopkins University, told Scientific American.
“We have big storms. We have long heat waves. As structural engineers, it’s a challenge for us, to keep up with those changing demands,” Schaefer said.
What Makes a CFO Optimistic
“With reference to what gives me hope, [it’s] The speed of concern, the willingness to collaborate, the level of leadership I am seeing from all sectors, both locally and nationally,” Gilbert says.
“People are realizing that this is the only way we can get out of this… we need a great change in the way we do things,” Gilbert says.
For example, in recent years, Miami created a “Disaster Volunteer Network,” a group of trained civilian emergency response volunteers “who know how to handle not only heat stress, but other disaster-related injuries as well.” You know,” Gilbert says. Citizen disaster volunteers “act as first responders in the event of a widespread disaster and our professional responders can’t go to the neighborhood,” Gilbert says.
“There’s a base of people willing to do whatever it takes to work on it.”
Being responsive to climate change is not the same for all regions.
“Here, in Miami, of course, sea level rise, hurricanes and heat are some of our effects. In California, it could be heat, drought and wildfires,” Gilbert says.
That said, through the Resilient Cities Network, municipal leaders are learning and sharing resources as they figure out how to prepare their cities for climate change, according to Gilbert.
Miami is partnering with Athens, Greece, for example, to share intelligence about preparedness and response to extreme heat, she says, “Internationally, I visited Amsterdam and The Hague, Rotterdam a few years ago. To see what the Netherlands is doing. They’ve been working on water issues for over 1,000 years. There’s a lot to learn.”
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