It’s been a sizzling spring in the Centennial State, and a new report finds excessive heat is likely to continue in years to come, with potentially deadly consequences. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, an additional 150,000 Americans could die by the end of the century from excessive heat caused by climate change.
Report contributor Daniel Lashof, who is program director for the Climate and Clean Energy Program at the NRDC, says that in terms of extreme heat events and numbers of “bad air” days across the country, there is no denying that things are getting worse.
“That’s because the amount of heat-trapping carbon pollution in the atmosphere continues to rise, and that is the primary driver of the climate change that we have seen over recent decades.”
Lashof says higher temperatures trap pollution, especially in cities, so much more needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable people. The report found Denver near the top of the list with more than 3000 heat-related deaths predicted this century.
Deserai Anderson Crow, associate director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado, is considered an expert in how public policy about climate change is communicated in the media. She worries about linking normal yearly weather fluctuations to climate change.
“If you tie climate to weather, which are two totally different things, the public then thinks that they’re the same thing. And that’s bound to have long-term negative effects for public understanding.”
She adds that, while long-term predictions like this are important, they can be tricky for people to understand or accept.
“I think especially Americans have this kind of endless optimism. So, we have this hope or assumption that things will change, we’ll do something to fix this problem. ”
Crow says one source of the confusion is that there’s no single villain in climate change: we all produce at least some carbon pollution, which is a major contributor to the problem.
The EPA is taking public comment through June 25 on a proposal to limit carbon pollution from one source, new power plants.