New, Deadly Risk for Cities in Summer: Power Failures During Heat Waves
The New York Times reports: The author of a new study said the combination of blackouts and extreme heat “may be the deadliest climate-related event we can imagine.”
New research indicates that the growing risk of overlapping heat waves and power failures poses an alarmingly severe threat for which major American cities are not prepared, According to the study, since 2015, at the same time that climate change has made heat waves worse, power failures have increased by more than 60% Using computer models to estimate the impact of these two phenomena in parallel on three large U.S. cities – Atlanta, Detroit and Phoenix – the study found that a combined blackout and heat wave would expose at least two-thirds of residents in those cities to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
The study revealed that in such emergencies, these cities’ public cooling centers could accomodate no more than 2% of each city’s population, meaning the majority of the population would be in serious danger. And none of the three cities requires those cooling centers to have backup power generators to run air-conditioners in case of power failures. Seemingly due to climate change, power failures are far more frequent and more likely to occur in hot weather when the demand for power soars in response to the increased use of air conditioning. According to the study, from 2015 – 2020, the number of blackouts per annum in the U.S. doubled. The most dangerous type of severe-weather event, heat kills some 12,000 Americans each year. And climate change is making heat waves more frequent and severe.
The lead author of the study was quoted saying, “A widespread blackout during an intense heat wave may be the deadliest climate-related event we can imagine, yet such a scenario is increasingly likely.”
The results of the study indicate that a concurrent heat wave and blackout event would require a far more extensive network of emergency cooling centers than is available today with mandatory backup power. The study finds that millions are at risk not years in the future, but this Summer.
To read the full article in the New York Times, click here.
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