The Federation of American Scientists Presents Policy Proposals to Address the Human Toll of Extreme Heat, Hosts Summit with Arizona State University

04.29.24 | 5 min read

The Federation of American Scientists Solicited Input from 85+ Experts to Address Impacts on the Workforce, Built Environment, Disaster Preparedness, Planning and Resilience, and Food Security

Washington, DC – April 29, 2024 – March 2024 was the 10th consecutive month to break temperature records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Given the temperatures for the first three months of the year, it’s virtually certain 2024 will be one of the world’s top five warmest years on record globally, NOAA reports, and each year thereafter is likely to be even hotter. In the absence of a national strategy to address the compounding impacts of extreme heat, states, counties, and cities around the country have had to take on the responsibility of experimenting and attempting to address this reality in their communities with limited available resources. While state and local governments can make significant advances, national extreme heat resilience requires a “whole of government” federal approach. 

To meet this need, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) spent the fall and winter working with more than 85 scientific experts to develop a comprehensive set of policy proposals, found here and listed below, to address extreme heat and its many detrimental effects. The resulting policy memos aim to be force multipliers to existing federal efforts to address heat and enhance resilience to climate change.

“The mild Spring temperatures we’re experiencing in Washington, D.C. right now are still above normal and trending up. That’s cause for concern, especially when it comes to human health impacts,” says Erica Goldman, FAS Director of Science Policy Entrepreneurship, who — along with Grace Wickerson, FAS Health Equity Policy Manager and Autumn Burton, FAS Senior Associate of Climate, Health, and Environment — worked with experts across the country to develop the policy proposals.

“The effects of extreme heat disproportionately burden people who work outdoors, and those of limited financial means living in poorly insulated housing or without air conditioning. Outdoor workers, children and elderly people are at elevated risk of severe outcomes, including death. The effects of extreme heat are devastating to those experiencing homelessness,” says Grace Wickerson.

They continue: “Even if we put aside the harm heat places on our physical bodies, there is no denying extreme heat has consequential knock-on effects in many areas of our society. These include worker productivity, livable cities, and food security, to name just a few. No one is immune from the effects.”

These proposals are timely. Just two weeks ago Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed into law HB 433, which prevents local governments from requiring heat protection for the estimated 2 million people in the state who work outdoors. Right now, as extreme heat events are becoming increasingly frequent and intense, we need effective, intentional policies to protect vulnerable populations that are disproportionately impacted: outdoor laborers, low-income, BIPOC, seniors, veterans, children, the unhoused, and those with compromised health status, among others.

Extreme Heat Policy Innovation Summit 

These policy memos were presented at the FAS and Arizona State University’s Knowledge Exchange for Resilience’s (ASU KER) Extreme Heat Policy Innovation Summit on April 9th and April 10th. Over two days, 200+ stakeholders came together for the first time to discuss policy innovation to build heat resilience at all levels of government: local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal. FAS and ASU KER will continue to support this community of practice, in order to collectively work towards a whole-of-government strategy on extreme heat preparedness, response, mitigation, and resilience. As we enter the next hottest summer on record, we need transformative ideas as well as sustained collaborations that ensure full implementation.

Here are the FAS policy proposals to address extreme heat.

Infrastructure and the Built Environment 

It is vital that the federal government integrate climate resilience into all federal funding grants and investments.

A Comprehensive Strategy to Address Extreme Heat in Schools 

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

Adapting the Nation to Future Temperatures through Heat Resilient Procurement 

Kurt Shickman | link

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

Larissa Larsen | link

Shifting Federal Investments To Address Extreme Heat Through Green And Resilient Infrastructure

Bill Updike, Jacob Miller, Rhea Rao, Dan Metzger | Link

Workforce Safety and Development

With no mandated federal heat stress standard, there is no federal mechanism to ensure the adoption of appropriate heat stress prevention strategies and emergency procedures to protect vulnerable workers.

Protecting Workers From Extreme Heat Through An Energy-Efficient Workplace Cooling Transformation

June Spector | link

Adopting Evidence-Based Heat Stress Management Strategies In The Workplace To Enhance Climate Equity

Margaret Morrissey-Basler, Douglas J. Casa | link

Public Health, Medical Preparedness, and Health Security

The undercounting of deaths related to extreme heat and other people-centered disasters — like extreme cold and smoke waves — hinders the political and public drive to address the problem.

Tracking And Preventing The Health Impacts Of Extreme Heat 

Alistair Hayden, Rebecca Morgenstern Brenner, Amie Patchen, Nathaniel Hupert, Vivian Lam | link

Optimizing $4 Billion Of Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program Funding To Protect The Most Vulnerable Households From Extreme Heat

Justin Schott | link

Enhancing Public Health Preparedness For Climate Change-Related Health Impacts

Kari Nadeau, Nile Nair | link

A Call For Immediate Public Health And Emergency Response Planning For Widespread Grid Failure Under Extreme Heat

Grace Wickerson, Autumn Burton, A. “Skip” Laitner | link

Addressing The National Challenges Of Extreme Heat By Modernizing Preparedness Approaches 

Nathaniel Matthews-Trigg | link

Food Security and Multi-Hazard Resilience

To balance water shortage, federal, state and local governments must invest in recharging aquifers and reservoirs while also reducing losses due to flooding.

U.S. Water Policy For A Warming Planet

Lori Adornato | link

Planning and Response

Extreme heat is an all-of-society problem that requires an all-of-government response.  

Combating Extreme Heat With A National Moonshot

Louis Blumberg | link

A National Framework For Sustainable Urban Forestry To Combat Extreme Heat
Arnab Ghosh | link

Leveraging Federal Post-Disaster Recovery Reform For Extreme Heat Adaptation And Innovation

Johanna Lawton | link

Defining Disaster: Incorporating Heat Waves And Smoke Waves Into Disaster Policy

Alistair Hayden, Sarah Bassett, Grace Wickerson, Rebecca Morgenstern Brenner, Amie Patchen, Nathaniel Hupert | link 

Preparing and Responding to Local Extreme Heat through Effective Local, State, and Federal Action Planning

Vivek Shandas, Grace Wickerson, Autumn Burton | link 

Data and Indices 

A cross-agency extreme-heat monitoring network can support the development of equitable heat mitigation and disaster preparedness efforts in major cities throughout the country.

Improve Extreme Heat Monitoring By Launching Cross-Agency Temperature Network

Bianca Corpuz | link



The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) works to advance progress on a broad suite of contemporary issues where science, technology, and innovation policy can deliver dramatic progress, and seeks to ensure that scientific and technical expertise have a seat at the policymaking table. Established in 1945 by scientists in response to the atomic bomb, FAS continues to work on behalf

See all publications