BY CHRIS MEGERIAN, DREW COSTLEY AND MATTHEW DALY
WASHINGTON (AP) — With heat waves spreading across the United States, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced new steps to protect workers — including a hazard alert notifying employers and employees about ways to stay protected from extreme heat — as well as measures to improve weather forecasts and make drinking water more accessible.
The actions come as nearly 40% of the U.S. population faces heat advisories, according to the National Weather Service. High temperatures have already scorched the Southwest this month, and more heat is expected in the Midwest and the Northeast in the coming days. Washington won’t be spared, and the heat index in the capital could reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit or 43 degrees Celsius on Friday.
It’s a worldwide problem, and scientists calculate that July will be the hottest month on record.
Noting that ocean temperatures near Miami topped 100 F (38 C), Biden said “that’s more like jumping in a hot tub than jumping into the ocean to ride a wave.’’
Citing federal data, Biden called extreme heat the No. 1 weather-related killer in the United States.
“Even those places that are used to extreme heat have never seen it as hot as it is now for as long as it’s been,’’ Biden said. “Even those who deny that we’re in the midst of a climate crisis can’t deny the impact of extreme heat is having on Americans.’’
Biden’s bid to address the immediate effects of climate change come as he faces pressure from fellow Democrats and environmental groups to declare a climate “emergency,’’ a step he has so far resisted. The steps announced Thursday supplement his long-term agenda for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and deploying clean energy technology, policies that may not pay dividends for years to come while global temperatures continue to rise.
Biden directed the Labor Department to increase inspections of potentially dangerous workplaces such as farms and construction sites and called for heightened enforcement of heat safety violations.
As part of the initiative, the department will issue a hazard alert notifying employers and employees about ways to stay protected from extreme heat, which has killed 436 workers since 2011, according to federal statistics.
The Biden administration plans to spend $7 million to develop more detailed weather predictions to anticipate extreme weather like heat waves, plus $152 million to boost drinking water infrastructure and climate resilience in California, Colorado and Washington.