California is the first state in the United States to begin ranking severe heat wave incidents.

California is the first state in the United States to begin ranking severe heat wave incidents.

California is the first state in the United States to begin ranking severe heat wave incidents.
A digital thermometer reads 104 degrees as the moon rises above Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. In California, a heat wave has set multiple high-temperature records.

Governor Gavin Newsom of California has approved a heat wave categorization bill to prepare the state for deadly high heat episodes.

The law takes effect in January. The California Environmental Protection Agency has until January 1, 2025 to develop a heat wave ranking system. In addition, Newsom signed three additional heat-related measures into law.

The January 2025 deadline provides the agency just a little more than two years to establish the rating system.

"I think two years is a realistic amount of time to build a complete solution," said California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who supports the heat wave ranking bill and was the state's first insurance commissioner. Climate Insurance Report

According to the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, the Spanish city of Seville, which released the world's first heat wave - Zoe - needed 18 months to build its ProMeteo heat wave classification system.

The Golden State was slammed with a devastating heat wave earlier this month, one of the most violent heat waves ever recorded in September. In the last two years, California has seen record-breaking heat, including a 123-degree day in the Coachella Valley in 2021.

"With lives and livelihoods on the line, we can't afford to wait," Newsom said in a statement released by the governor's office.

Here's all you need to know about California's strategies to prevent excessive heat.

What are the plans for the ranking system?

The bill identifies several factors to be considered in creating the law, including:

  • Maximum and lowest temperatures, as well as the duration of intense heat episodes, are examples of weather data.
  • Data and information about the health impacts of heat.
  • Extreme heat severity measurements
  • Locally relevant information, such as the effects of urban heat islands or cooling methods
  • Public participation
According to the law, the heat rating system will include:

  • Recommendations on thresholds or triggers for public action to reduce the impact of extreme heat on human health.
  • Recommendations for measuring the short- and long-term health impacts of extreme heat.

Lara said it's not yet clear what the ranking system will look like.

"We don't want to be too prescriptive about the law, but we want to give the experts the opportunity to develop a system that makes sense in California," he said.

What does California's extreme heat rating bill entail for residents?

The heat wave ranking would support existing heat warning systems by categorizing heat waves according to their impact on human health, Kathy Baughman McLeod, director of the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, said in a statement released by the California Department of Insurance.

The bill is part of the Arsht-Rock Resilience Center's effort to pilot heat wave categorization in parts of the U.S. and Europe.

"People do not have to die from the heat, and this groundbreaking legislation goes a long way toward protecting 40 million Californians," McLeod said.

California's lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by the impacts of extreme heat, Assemblywoman and co-author of the bill Luz Rivas said in a statement. She added that the system will ensure Californians are adequately informed of the severity of impending heat-related weather events.

"We see the impact on crumbling infrastructure, human health and air quality, and we can say that California is a world leader in the fight against climate change and the deadly effects of extreme heat, which is something we can be really proud of," Lara told USA TODAY.

What additional heat-related legislation was passed into law?

Three more heat-related measures were signed into law by Newsom:

The California Department of Public Health is required by AB 2420 to investigate the negative health impacts of severe heat on persons soon before or after delivery. According to the law, the organization would also "create rules for safe conditions and health concerns for pregnant women and newborns."

SB 852 authorizes cities, counties, and special districts in California to establish "Climate Resilience Districts" to support programs to battle severe heat, sea level rise, wildfires, and other climate hazards.

According to AB 1643, the state Employment and Workforce Development Agency must form a committee to investigate how heat impacts California employees, businesses, and the economy.

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