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Climate Change: New Report Says Health Risks Of Heat Are Rising

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Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council has developed an interactive map that shows places where the number of extra-hot days is already high. The health impacts -- which even include death -- are especially hard on very young, very old and sick people.

Extremely hot days aren’t just uncomfortable. They’re unhealthy too. And the number of them is growing – nationally and in Utah – according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

About two-thirds of Americans live in counties where heat threats are already high, the report says. For Utahns, it’s worse: 86 percent. Heatstroke, asthma, heat exhaustion and infectious diseases are on the rise too.

Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist for NRDC, points to numbers like these to show why dealing with climate change is so important – and why moves by the current administration like dismantling the Clean Power Plan are counterproductive.

“Instead of taking dangerous steps to unravel historic climate action, we help keep people healthy when we reduce carbon pollution,” she says.

Knowlton points to federal action as one answer, but communities like Salt Lake County aren’t waiting for that.

“Knowing that we’re already on this trajectory and it’s going to get worse, we have to plan on how we deal with it,” says Royal DeLegge, director of environmental health for Salt Lake County. “And that’s what the adaptation efforts are all about.”

Salt Lake County is part of the “HeatRisk” national pilot project that includes heat-related health warnings and a network of “cooling centers” where people can go for relief from high temperatures.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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