Extreme heat causes 460 deaths, 7.7 bln USD losses in California over past decade: report

Sweltering weather
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 As California grapples with a record-breaking heat wave, a new report revealed the alarming cost of extreme heat in the most populous U.S. State, with 460 premature deaths and a staggering 7.7 billion U.S. dollars in economic losses over the past decade, Xinhua reports. 

The California Department of Insurance recently examined seven significant extreme heat events between 2013 and 2022, trying to quantify the human and financial costs across the state.

The worst heat event happened in California's coastal inland in 2022, which alone claimed 200 lives and caused 2.2 billion dollars in economic losses, according to the report titled "Impacts of Extreme Heat to California's People, Infrastructure, and Economy" released last week.

Extreme heat events also led to more than 5,000 hospitalizations and nearly 10,600 emergency department visits during the study period for a variety of heat-related conditions, including kidney failure, respiratory ailments, mental health, and stroke.

The economic toll was equally staggering. Lost wages and productivity, disruptions to agriculture and manufacturing, power outages, and infrastructure damage all contributed to the 7.7-billion-dollar costs.

Labor productivity alone suffered losses ranging from 7.7 million to 210 million dollars per event. Power outages, particularly during the 2022 Coastal Inland heat wave, caused 230 million dollars in economic damage. Infrastructure costs due to heat-related damage repair and delays ranged from 3.8 million to 35 million dollars per event, according to the report.

The report acknowledged that the true cost of extreme heat is likely far greater than the preliminary estimates. Traditional insurance often fails to cover losses such as workers' lost wages and power outages for residents and businesses, it said.

The report, which the state agency called "first of its kind," aims to inform policymakers, governments, businesses, and the insurance industry to develop adaptive strategies to mitigate the growing threat of extreme heat.

"Extreme heat is a silent, escalating disaster that threatens our health, economy, and way of life in California," said California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara in a statement, stressing the urgency of addressing "the staggering hidden costs of extreme heat events."

One of the major challenges ahead is the disproportionate impact of extreme heat on vulnerable populations, including low-income communities, older adults, and outdoor workers, Lara noted in the report.

Adverse health outcomes disproportionately impacted Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities, with significant mortality rates among older adults and heat-related illnesses among younger populations, according to the report.

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