In the Pacific Northwest, we’re used to a mild climate, but this last week has been brutal! The weather might be out of our control, but it’s important to pay attention to extreme temperatures for our health. People with disabilities can be particularly vulnerable to the dangers of a drastic change in temperatures.
The World Institute on Disability has established a new initiative, New Earth Disability (NED) to examine how disabilities and climate change connect. According to NED, “[a]ssorted disabilities often make it difficult to regulate body temperature: for example, people with high-level spinal cord injuries have a lower ability to sweat to cool their body temperature; meanwhile, individuals with chronic health conditions may have difficulty with any physiological stress, which certainly includes extreme heat.” Beyond physical factors, many people with disabilities are also limited by access to air-conditioning or inclusive cooling shelters. This makes heat stress and exhaustion especially hazardous.
Of course, in 2021, we are also still experiencing a global pandemic, requiring further social restrictions and reducing capacity in many places. While social distancing will eventually halt in the future, NED says we can expect more extreme weather, unfortunately.
Climate change is going to dramatically increase the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events in the coming years… Under a low-emissions climate change scenario where temperatures increase 2°C (3.6°F) over the next several decades, the length of the longest extreme heat events may grow by a full week, and some parts of the United States… will see over 60 more days per year above 100°F. (New Earth Disability)
How To Beat the Heat
Handling the increased temperatures to come requires the development of inclusive and accessible extreme heat public health programs and protocols. You can contact your local representatives to make this a priority.
Until then, the CDC recommends these tips for staying cool and safe.