Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando Valley), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, has introduced legislation to combat the challenges caused by extreme hot temperatures.
Assembly Bill (AB) 2076, introduced on Monday, Feb. 14, would implement the Extreme Heat and Community Resilience Program and create a new Chief Heat Officer, an Extreme Heat Advisory Council, and an Interagency Heat Task Force to scale up response efforts that can meet the challenges posed by extreme heat events.
“As our planet grapples with the deadly effects of a changed climate, California must ramp up its efforts to protect its residents from the perils of extreme heat waves,” Rivas said.
“For years, I have pushed the state to do more to combat and mitigate extreme heat so that we can better protect our most vulnerable populations, who are at greater risk from suffering at the hands of heat-related events. With AB 2076, we have a unique opportunity to centralize and coordinate the state’s response to this extreme weather event to give California’s rural and urban communities a fighting chance to beat the heat.”
Last week, the Los Angeles area dealt with a rare and dangerous heat wave, with temperatures spiking to nearly 90 degrees in the middle of a winter month. Extreme heat waves are increasing in both severity and occurrence.
California traditionally experiences around four extreme heat days a year. However, according to Rivas’ office, the California Energy Commission anticipates that by 2050, the state will have to grapple with an average of 40 to 50 extreme heat days a year.
Extreme heat causes more emergency room visits and deaths each year in the United States than any other weather-related disaster, yet the damage is far greater as heat-related illnesses and deaths are woefully undercounted.
Similar to climate change, these growing extreme heat events are an environmental justice issue that disproportionately affects low-income households, communities of color, and vulnerable populations such as seniors and children.
“We thank Assemblymember Luz Rivas for her tremendous efforts to keep California cool. AB 2076 will help California communities that today bear the brunt of extreme heat. For thousands of Californians each year, this is a matter of avoiding hospitalization, or even life and death,” said Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of Climate Resolve.
Currently, the state has over 40 agencies and departments implementing 120 recommendations or actions tasked by the Administration’s extreme heat actions plan.
AB 2076 would create the position of Chief Heat Officer, which would be responsible for overseeing all heat-related actions in California. Additionally, with the creation of both the Extreme Heat Advisory Council and the Interagency Heat Task Force under the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, California will be well-equipped to respond to extreme heat events and better track heat-related illnesses and deaths.
At the United Nations COP26 Conference, Rivas’ staff said, the state learned that countries such as Greece, Spain, Sierra Leone, and even US cities such as Miami, FL and Phoenix, AZ have already appointed Chief Heat Officers to increase public awareness of heat-related events and bolster extreme heat mitigation efforts.
When the country of Sierra Leone has surpassed the state in creating a centralized extreme heat officer, it highlights the need for California to get caught up with other nations, given the propensity for excessive heat-related events due to our climate and the effects of climate change.
AB 2076 is sponsored by Climate Resolve.