Science Policy

Tracking Extreme Heat Federal Policy and Funding

05.01.24 | 3 min read | Text by Autumn Burton

Last year was the hottest year in recorded human history. In summer 2023 alone, up to 275 million Americans were placed under some type of heat advisory. Experts at NOAA project a one-in-three chance that 2024 will be even warmer than 2023 — with a 99% chance that 2024 will rank among the top five warmest years. With “danger season” 2024, the time when extreme heat and numerous other climate-related hazards in the United States tend to occur — beginning after April 29th, there is a vital need to build resilience to the impending heat waves. 

To begin to respond to this urgent need at the federal level, FAS engaged +85 federal policy experts and recruited 33 authors to work on +18 policy memos through our Extreme Heat Policy Sprint, generating +150 policy recommendations to address extreme heat’s impacts and build community resilience. Our contributors’ recommendations represent the building blocks of a whole-of-government strategy on extreme heat, spanning six domains: 

  1. Infrastructure and the built environment
  2. Workforce safety and development
  3. Public health, medical preparedness, and health security
  4. Food security and multi-hazard resilience
  5. Planning and response
  6. Data and indices

Collectively, FAS has identified 34 offices and/or agencies that can act on extreme heat. However, as noted in our previous publication, extreme heat receives minimal targeted federal support and funding for planning, mitigation, and recovery despite being the number one weather-related killer of Americans. The national response to extreme heat is still being developed and requires increased, coordinated action across the White House, Congress, and federal agencies. Improved coordination and effective planning requires a clear understanding of the landscape of the existing federal efforts. For this reason, the Federation of American Scientists has put together an Extreme Heat Federal Policy and Funding tracker to monitor the progress of federal actions on extreme heat, enhance accountability, and to allow stakeholders to stay informed on the evolving state of U.S. climate-change resilience response as it evolves. This tracker is organized around our six key domains of federal opportunity.

In the absence of a national strategy, states, counties, and cities around the country have had to take on the responsibility of experimenting and attempting to address extreme heat in their communities with limited available resources. While many state and local governments are working diligently to make significant advances, national extreme heat resilience requires a whole-of-government federal approach, as it directly impacts public health, energy, housing, national security, international relations, and many more policy domains. The federal government plays a critical role in scaling heat resilience interventions through funding, guidance, research and development, regulations, and other policy levers.

Executive branch agencies need a government-wide coordination strategy to prioritize and address extreme heat nationwide. This strategy requires comprehensive reviews of available resources for financial assistance, assessments of regulatory and rulemaking authority, and an emphasis on legislative action — in order to define the problems to solve, assign priorities for agencies, and develop evaluation metrics for review, adjustment, and renewal of programs The FAS Federal Extreme Heat Policy and Funding tracker serves as a key starting point towards these necessary actions.