EPA Report Shows How Climate Change Impacts Health

July 9, 2024

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported heat-related workplace deaths in its Fifth Edition of Climate Change Indicators in the United States report. From 1992 to 2022, a total of 986 U.S. workers across all industry sectors died from exposure to heat—of which the construction sector accounted for about 34% of all occupational heat-related deaths. During this time frame, 334 construction workers died due to heat exposure on the job. As CMM recently reported, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a new heat-protection rule that aims to reduce heat injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace.

The EPA’s new report highlights observed trends and historical data related to either the causes or effects of climate change. Other trends the report found include:

  • Global and U.S. Temperature—Globally, 2023 was the warmest year on record, 2016 was the second warmest, and 2014 to 2023 was the warmest decade on record since thermometer-based observations began. In the U.S., unusually hot summer days have become more common over the last few decades, and unusually hot summer nights have increased at an even faster rate, indicating less cooling off at night.
  • Heat Waves in U.S. Cities—Heat waves are occurring more often in major U.S. cities. Their frequency has steadily increased from an average of two heat waves per year during the 1960s to six per year during the 2010s and 2020s. The average length of the heat wave season across the U.S. cities is 46 days longer now than it was in the 1960s and, in recent years, the average heat wave in major U.S. urban areas has lasted about four days.
  • Sea Surface Temperature—Over the past century, sea surface temperatures have increased and continue to rise. Sea surface temperature has been consistently higher during the past three decades than at any other time since reliable observations began in 1880.
  • Marine Heat Waves—Between 1982 and 2023, the annual cumulative intensity of marine heat waves has increased in most coastal U.S. waters, with the largest changes in waters off the northeastern U.S. and Alaskan coasts. When a location experiences an increase in annual cumulative intensity over time, that means marine heat waves are becoming either more common, longer, more intense (hotter), or some combination of the three.
  • Coastal Flooding—Tidal flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline. Most sites with long-term data experienced an increase in tidal flooding since the 1950s. At more than half of these sites, floods are now at least five times more common than they were in the 1950s. The rate of increase of flood events per year is largest at most locations in Hawaii and along the East and Gulf Coasts.
  • Wildfires—The extent of area burned by wildfires in the U.S. has increased since the 1980s, with the largest increases occurring in the West and Southwest. Of the 10 years with the largest acreage burned, all have occurred since 2004—including peak years in 2015 and 2020. This period coincides with many of the warmest years on record nationwide.

In correlation, June’s global temperature was record warm for the 13th straight month, and it represents the 12th consecutive month the world was 2.7 F warmer than pre-industrial times, the Associated Press reported.

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