Climate Change

Heat Waves, Climate Change, and Social Vulnerabilities in Maricopa County

Main image to the post Heat Waves, Climate Change, and Social Vulnerabilities in Maricopa County

Arizona's Maricopa County experienced a staggering increase in heat-related deaths in 2023, with a record-breaking 645 fatalities. This grim statistic represents a 52% surge compared to the previous year. The surge was particularly pronounced during a record-breaking heat wave in July, where temperatures soared above 110 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the month. Scientists attribute such extreme temperatures to the effects of climate change.

The report highlights the intersection between heat waves, climate change, and social issues such as homelessness and substance abuse. Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, the medical director for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, expressed concern about the increasing trend in heat-related deaths. She emphasized the need to expand heat relief activities and ensure access for all county residents.

Approximately 65% of the heat-related deaths involved drug or alcohol use, while 45% involved individuals experiencing homelessness. The pandemic's impact on housing and the county's growing population have exacerbated these vulnerabilities. Sunenshine stressed the need for housing solutions, as homeless individuals are significantly more likely to succumb to heat-related deaths in Maricopa County.

Men accounted for over three-quarters of the heat-related deaths, and two-thirds of the victims were aged 50 or older. Heat remains the leading weather-related cause of death in the United States, often underestimating its impact due to its role in exacerbating underlying conditions such as heart attacks, respiratory problems, and kidney disease.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09