Faculty Fellow Helene Margolis discusses Climate Change and the COVID-19 Pandemic

08.24.20

By Chelsea Harvey for The Scientific American

Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes and extreme weather events are difficult to deal with in the best of times. But coordinating evacuations or opening shelters, while also adhering to social distancing orders, is a unique challenge.

Now, with heat wave season swiftly approaching, public health experts are urging cities to think carefully about how to protect vulnerable populations as the pandemic rages on.

These are life-or-death considerations. Extreme heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related fatalities in the United States, killing hundreds of people each year. And the risks are only growing as the climate warms.

July 2019 was the hottest month on record for the Northern Hemisphere, and last summer broke temperature records left and right. Forecasts are already projecting another hotter-than-average summer across much of the United States this year.

“In the midst of one crisis, it’s not always easy to think about another crisis,” said Helene Margolis, an expert on climate and health at the University of California, Davis. “When I give talks about climate change and heat stress, etc., etc., I always say we need to think about these things in advance of crisis, because that’s the only way we’re gonna make ethical decisions and really solve these problems.”

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