Biden Announces Steps to Help Communities Deal With Extreme Heat
and Reporting from Washington President Biden directly linked recent record heat waves with climate change on Thursday and announced new measures aimed at helping communities endure extreme weather, as rising temperatures scorch much of the country and amplify alarms about global warming. The announcement came as the National Weather Service for the first time in nearly seven years, and the month of July is on track to be Earths . Even those who deny we are in a climate crisis cant deny the impact extreme heat is having on Americans, Mr. Biden said, citing examples like a woman in Phoenix who fell out of a wheelchair and after five minutes on the ground. Calling heat extremes the No. 1 weather-related killer, responsible for about 600 deaths in the United States annually, Mr. Biden announced new protections for workers who are most vulnerable to heat deaths, funding to improve weather prediction and grants to help ensure clean drinking water across the West. The kind of measures announced trying to adapt to the effects of global warming rather than dealing with its source illustrate Mr. Bidens bind on the climate. Even as heat waves , Mr. Biden has faced a Congress that is hostile to climate legislation. Republicans unanimously opposed Mr. Bidens climate law and in recent months have sought to slash much of it, calling new solar and wind manufacturing tax credits enacted through the legislation a gift to China. Still, some members of Mr. Bidens party have called for him to be more aggressive in blocking fossil fuel projects. In recent months, he approved a major oil project in Alaska; allowed expanded exports of liquefied natural gas; and threw the administrations support behind , which has been the subject of years of legal challenges from environmental groups. Worker protections and water access are vital in this deadly heat, but incremental steps like these are the reason were suffering this record-shattering summer, said Jean Su, the energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. Real relief wont come until Biden confronts the culprit of deadly fossil fuels. Scientists called the new measures important but insufficient. With research showing that recent heat waves in the United States and Europe would have been , many climate experts said Mr. Biden needed to take a strong stand against new fossil fuels. We know with almost perfect confidence that we are supercharging these heat extremes were doing it by burning fossil fuels, said Jonathan Overpeck, the dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. He added, If we dont stop the burning of fossil fuels, all of this continues to get worse. There are currently no federal or state standards that specifically protect workers from heat stress. A Labor Department regulation that has not yet been finalized would require employers to provide outdoor workers with adequate water and rest breaks, and provide medical services and training to address signs of heat-related illnesses. On Thursday, Mr. Biden said the department would issue a first-ever heat hazard alert that would require the agency to provide information on what employers can and should be doing now to protect their workers. The Labor Department will also ramp up inspections and other enforcement of heat safety violations in what the White House called high-risk industries like construction and agriculture. Mr. Biden criticized states like Texas, which recently passed a law that could bar cities and counties from mandating that private employers offer paid water breaks. He noted the dangers for construction workers, in particular, who literally risk their lives working all day in blazing heat, and in some places dont even have the right to take a water break thats outrageous. Mr. Biden did not use the moment to declare a climate emergency, a tool that would give the president more power to expand renewable power and block oil and gas projects without Congresss assent. Activists have long pushed Mr. Biden to do so, but the White House has expressed worries in the past about its authority to take such unilateral measures, fearing that they might be overturned in the courts. Instead, he pointed to the Inflation Reduction Act, which last year but whose funding will continue flowing for years to come. It contains nearly $370 billion in tax credits to spur wind and solar power and electric vehicle battery manufacturing in the United States and incentives for purchases of electric vehicles, induction stoves and electric heat pumps. Mr. Biden has pledged that the United States will cut its climate pollution roughly in half by the end of this decade and will stop adding carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere altogether by 2050. Although the Inflation Reduction Act is expected to significantly reduce emissions, it is unlikely to achieve that target on its own: The law, combined with regulations restricting power plants and vehicle tailpipes, is predicted to cut greenhouse gas emissions about 40 percent this decade. is a correspondent in Washington covering domestic policy. reports on federal climate and environmental policy from Washington. She has broken multiple stories about the Trump administrations efforts to repeal climate change regulations and limit the use of science in policymaking.