Lien: Heatwaves Kill


Amen Koutowogbe

Deseret Industries Thrift Store & Donation Center in Murray, Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday, Aug. 5, 2022. (Photo by Amen Koutowogbe | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Kayla Lien, Opinion Writer


People have started dying in the United States. due to the current heatwave moving through the Pacific Northwest. Heat is reportedly the most deadly extreme weather event, and large parts of the country will stay at high temperatures throughout the warmer months.

As the climate heats up, the likelihood of heat waves occurring increases. And an abundance of heat influences water usage, finances, gas usage and electricity. This heatwave adversely affects individuals as well as the economy.

Despite Utah being a desert state, we weren’t prepared for the insane temperature highs we saw this past month and we won’t be moving forward.

Human Impact

Low-income areas are hit by heatwaves hardest, due to inaccessibility of air conditioning — in the U.S., Native American and Black communities have the highest rates of heat-related deaths.

Heatwaves can result in more hospital visits, loss of efficiency in construction and agriculture, less agricultural yield and damage to infrastructure. People lose their capacity to work and productivity slows down as temperatures increase.

Last year, around 800 people died during a heatwave in Oregon and Washington. This trend also appears across Europe and Asia, with over 2,000 people having died from heat-related causes in Spain and Portugal.

Heat-related illnesses also hurt people in the long-term. If an individual doesn’t die initially, it’ll affect them for years. Heat stroke causes loss of memory, damage to vital organs such as the brain, heart, liver and kidneys, and adversely affects cognitive function.

Economic Impact

Economies have been found to grow at slower paces during hot summers. The combined power of heatwaves and consistent droughts is a major threat to agriculture, which plays a large part in Utah’s economy. The heat has been found to cause 10 times more damage to crops than is currently projected. The damage will only increase with time.

Small businesses like the relatively young restaurant Ramen Haus feel this change acutely. “It’s pretty typical in the summer time for us to slow down like a little bit, just because it’s ramen and ramen is hard in the summer,” said Chloe Young, a Ramen Haus employee. “But I’ve noticed [this] with … the higher heats for sure. We have like 700-dollar days and as a business … what if we don’t make like 2000 dollars a day? We could fall short on rent.”

With the heat slowing customer turnout, Young said they have to cut staff. “So we have to go into … bare bones mode where it’s only one cook, maybe a dishwasher, and then just the two servers every night,” she said. This sort of operation isn’t sustainable for those with bills to pay.

Energy grids struggle to keep up with the demand for air conditioning, and many are expecting rolling blackouts throughout the summer months. Companies’ bottom lines will be affected as they lose revenue to cool down offices and keep workplaces safe from heat-related illnesses. Stock prices on average also drop about 22 basis points during a heat spell.

Aside from less revenue for businesses, the heatwave also hurts vital services we need as a community. Utah firefighters face the brunt of the work, quelling wildfires that spring from the heat. While doing their jobs, firefighters are also at risk of developing heat-related illnesses due to the extreme weather and exertion involved in wearing the necessary protective gear.

I am tired of beating the dead horse that is climate change. The effects are tangible and fatal and yet entirely dismissible by those who have the privilege of ignoring it. Average individuals themselves are forced to evaluate their carbon footprint, while the rich and famous get off scot-free. People like Kylie Jenner pump carbon into the atmosphere while we’re left to pay extra for sustainability. I am lucky to have the ability to cringe at my air conditioning bill — others are dying in their overheated homes.

Heat kills people and businesses at the same time. We need to get climate change under control because human lives are paying the price for inaction. At some point, the loss of money will cause those in power to take notice. For now, we will mourn the dead and turn on our fans.


[email protected]