As this summer’s record-setting heat wave gripped the western U.S., California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation to help protect Californians from more frequent and severe heat waves driven by climate change.
The legislation builds on California’s Extreme Heat Action Plan released earlier this year, an all-of-government strategy to strengthen the state’s resilience and mitigate the health, economic and ecological impacts of extreme heat, which fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable Californians.
This “unprecedented heat wave is a painful reminder of the costs and impacts of climate change – and it won’t be the last,” said Governor Newsom. “California is taking aggressive action to combat the climate crisis and build resilience in our most vulnerable communities, including a comprehensive strategy to protect Californians from extreme heat. With lives and livelihoods on the line, we cannot afford to delay.”
Extreme heat ranks amongst the deadliest of all climate change hazards, with structural inequities playing a significant role in the capacity of individuals, workers, and communities to protect and adapt to its effects.
Several pieces of legislation are part of the package.
AB 1643 by Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) will create an advisory committee to inform a study on the effects of extreme heat on California’s workers, businesses and economy.
AB 2238 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) will create the nation’s first extreme heat advance warning and ranking system to better prepare communities ahead of heat waves.
AB 2420 by Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) is a first-in-the-nation measure that directs the California Department of Public Health to review research on the impacts of extreme heat on perinatal health and develop guidance for safe outdoor conditions to protect pregnant workers.
SB 852 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) will allow cities and counties to create climate resilience districts with financing power to invest in programs that tackle extreme heat, drought, wildfire and other climate impacts.
“Unfortunately, each summer we are experiencing extreme heat weather events that are hotter and more devastating than the last,” said Assemblywoman Luz Rivas. “Thank you to Governor Newsom for signing my legislation, AB 2238, that will help save the lives of Californians, and my thanks to Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara for his leadership and dedication in pushing this legislation forward. California will now lead the nation with the first advance warning and ranking system for extreme heat waves.”
“California is once again leading the world in fighting climate change and its deadly effects. Ranking heat waves will be a powerful new tool to protect all Californians alongside Governor Gavin Newsom’s Extreme Heat Action Plan,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who sponsored AB 2238 and issued the first California Climate Insurance Report. “I applaud the Governor’s and the bill’s joint authors’ continued leadership on these necessary extreme heat investments and policies that will save lives and close the protection gap for our most at-risk communities as we face more heat waves in the years ahead.”
Earlier this month, Governor Newsom signed AB 2645 by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona), which requires counties to ensure community resilience centers can serve as community-wide assets to mitigate public health impacts during disasters, including extreme heat events.
Budget legislation signed by the Governor also directs $315 million General Fund over two years to advance implementation of the Extreme Heat Action Plan across various programs that protect communities, the economy and natural systems. Governor Newsom’s historic $53.9 billion multi-year climate commitment includes $865 million in total to address extreme heat, with funding to plant trees and expand other school greening projects, bolster community resilience centers that help protect public health during climate-driven extreme weather events, and more.
Extreme heat endangers vulnerable Californians, including the elderly and those with health concerns. This year’s state budget created the Office of Community Partnerships and Strategic Communications and invests $20 million over two years to support public education and outreach to these communities.