day one project

Hot Policy Ideas to Tackle the Extreme Heat Crisis

03.31.24 | 4 min read

America is rapidly barreling towards its next hottest summer on record. To address this growing crisis, states, counties, and cities around the country are experimenting on the fly with policy interventions. California has announced $200 million to build resilience centers that protect communities from extreme heat and has created an all-of-government action plan to address extreme heat. Arizona just launched its Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan and created the first state-level Chief Heat Officer position to guide the state during heat season 2024 and beyond. New Jersey, and Maryland are actively developing extreme heat action plans of their own. California, Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota all have state-wide workplace heat standards, and local governments like the City of Phoenix and Miami-Dade County have passed or attempted to pass workplace protections. Additionally, New York City and Los Angeles have driven cool roof adoption through funding programs and local ordinances, which can reduce energy demands, improve indoor comfort, and potentially lower local outside air temperatures.  

While state and local governments can make significant advances, national extreme heat resilience requires a “whole of government” federal approach, as it intersects infrastructure, energy, housing, health, food security, homeland and national security, international relations, and many more policy domains. The federal government can play a critical role in scaling up heat resilience interventions through research and development, regulations, standards, guidance, funding sources, and other policy levers. But what are the transformational policy opportunities for action?

Sourcing Opportunities and Ideas for Policy Innovation

During Fall 2023, FAS engaged +85 experts in conversations around federal policies needed to address extreme heat. Our stakeholders included: 22 academic researchers, 33 non-profit organization leaders, 12 city and state government employees, 3 private company leaders, 2 current or former Congressional staffers, 3 National Labs leaders, and 10 current federal government employees. Our conversations were guided by the following four questions:

Our conversations with experts sourced 20 high-demand opportunity areas for policy innovation and 65 policy ideas. To respond to these opportunity demands, FAS recruited 33 authors to work on +18 policy memos through our Extreme Heat Policy Sprint, generating +100 policy recommendations to address extreme heat’s impacts and build community resilience. All together, FAS has identified 34 offices and/or agencies that can act on extreme heat.

Our contributors’ recommendations represent the building blocks of a whole-of-government strategy on extreme heat, spanning six distinct topic areas: infrastructure and the built environment, workforce safety and development, public health, medical preparedness, and health security, food security and multi-hazard resilience, planning and response, and data and indices. If you would like to discuss these recommendations with the authors or FAS, please reach out to fas@fas.org.

To accelerate resilience cooling, adapt transportation to the heat, create heat-resilient schools, enable climate-aware housing policy:

Leveraging Federal Programs to Cost Effectively Improve Health and Deliver Urban Cooling, Environmental Justice and Resilience >>

Bill Updike, Rhea Rao, Jacob Miller & Dan Metzger

A Comprehensive Strategy to Address Extreme Heat in Schools >>

Rebecca Morgenstern-Brenner, Amie Patchen, Alistair Hayden, Nathaniel Hupert & Grace Wickerson

Adapting the Nation to Future Temperatures through Heat Resilient Procurement >>

Kurt Shickman

Enhanced Household Air Conditioning Access Data For More Targeted Federal Support Against Extreme Heat >>

 Larissa Larsen

To set indoor and outdoor temperature standards, safety practices, and protections:

Creating a Federal Initiative to Promote the Adoption of Evidence-based Heat Stress Management Strategies in the Workplace to Enhance Climate Equity >>

Margaret Morrissey-Basler & Douglas Casa

Workplace cooling transformation for a healthy, productive, and sustainable U.S. workforce >>

June Spector

To build healthcare system preparedness and design activation thresholds for healthcare responses, and reduce energy burdens as well as utility and grid insecurity:

Modernizing Extreme Heat Preparedness Approaches at Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response to Address the Challenges of a Hotter Nation >>

Nathaniel Matthews-Trigg

When America Goes Dark, What Comes Next? A Call for Immediate Public Health and Emergency Response Planning for Widespread Grid Failure Under Extreme Heat >>

Grace Wickerson, Autumn Burton & Skip Laitner

Enhancing Public Health Preparedness for Climate Change-Related Health Impacts >>

Nile Nair & Kari Nadeau

Optimizing LIHEAP’s $4 billion annual allocation to protect the most vulnerable households from extreme heat >>

Justin Schott

Tracking And Preventing The Health Impacts Of Extreme Heat >>

Alistair Hayden & Nathaniel Hupert, Vivian Lam, Rebecca Morgenstern-Brenner & Amie Patchen

To anticipate and prevent supply chain disruptions and connect drought resilience and heat resilience:

U.S. Water Policy for a Warming Planet >>

Lori Adornato

To reform the benefits-costs analysis, create the “plan” for how to respond to a heat disaster, spur insurance and financing innovation, and incorporate future climate projections into planning:

National Moonshot to Combat Extreme Heat >>

Louis Blumberg

Leveraging Federal Post-Disaster Recovery Reform for Extreme Heat Adaptation and Innovation >>

Johanna Lawton

Defining disaster: Incorporating heat waves and smoke waves into disaster policy >>

Alistair Hayden, Sarah Bassett, Rebecca Morgenstern Brenner, Amie Patchen & Nathaniel Hupert

A National Framework for Sustainable Urban Forestry to Combat Extreme Heat >>

Arnab Ghosh

Preparing And Responding To Extreme Heat Through Effective Local, State, And Federal Action Planning >>

Vivek Shandas, Grace Wickerson & Autumn Burton

To set standards and build tools for data collection and analysis:

Improve Extreme Heat Monitoring by Launching Cross-Agency Temperature Network >>

Bianca Corpuz