Tracking "The Silent Killer"

Experts Track Effects of Heat on Human Health as Temperatures Rise

Climate change is fueling stronger and longer heatwaves, which pose serious health threats across the United States and the globe. Over the past three decades, annual average temperatures have been on the rise globally. In fact, 2015 was the hottest year worldwide since recordkeeping began, and 2016 is already nipping at is heels. This heat can be deadly. For example, the California heatwave of 2006 saw hundreds of deaths and a 2003 heatwave in Europe saw more than 70,000 excess deaths. Children, the elderly, and low-income citizens are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat, as are people with preexisting respiratory, heart, or kidney illnesses. While the links between extreme heat and health are well known, we do not have a centralized system to track these impacts in the United States.

In March 2015, NRDC convened the National Heat-Health Surveillance Expert Workshop with 50 participants from public health departments, universities, research institutes, and governments. This fact sheet discusses the major themes from that conference and recommendations for building support for stronger tracking of heat-health effects and build community climate resilience.