Major cities across the U.S. are employing climate officials to help manage the response to “extreme heat” conditions, according to The Washington Post.
Los Angeles, Miami and Phoenix have appointed “chief heat officers” to mitigate the effects of climate change and to protect the city’s low-income minority residents, whom they deem especially vulnerable to high temperatures, reported the Post. Currently, heat waves are sweeping across the U.S. with temperatures reaching up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit in states like Texas and Oklahoma, according to Yahoo News.
Miami was the first city to appoint a chief heat officer as part of a partnership with the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, a division of the think tank focused on creating climate change solutions, according to an April 2021 press release. Phoenix followed suit in September, appointing an Arizona State University Environmental Sciences professor to lead the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation, according to a press release.
In Phoenix, the chief heat officer is paid an hourly rate of $62.50, according to figures from the city’s open data, which translates to an approximate annual salary of $130,000.
More recently, Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Works (DPW) announced the appointment of Marta Segura as the city’s first Chief Heat Officer in June, according to a press release.
Heat officers in Los Angeles and Miami focus specifically on addressing heat waves’ impacts on low-income and minority communities.
Segura described hot temperatures as a “primary climate hazard” in Los Angeles, stating that her main goal in her new position is to save lives, according to the Post. She also told the Post that she wants the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the federal government to recognize heat waves’ effects on public health and infrastructure, expressing her desire to make the city “safe for everyone.”
CEMO Director Marta Segura @Segura4Change has been appointed LA's first Chief Heat Officer. In this new role, she will oversee the City's response to extreme heat, LA's primary (and deadliest) climate hazard. Read more: https://t.co/2VjHMkPHed pic.twitter.com/QmTMZi33D8
— City of LA – Climate Emergency Mobilization Office (@CEMO_EJ4LA) June 3, 2022
Segura will work alongside various city departments to prepare the Heat Action Plan, which will contain a warning system, interagency emergency response plans and long-term strategies to reduce exposure.
“I think it’s a problem that if we don’t address (heat waves) and don’t address climate change, it will get exponentially worse, ” Segura told the Post.
“Heat waves are now six times more frequent than in the early 2000s,” she claimed.
Los Angeles’ new heat officer also said she wanted to get at “the root causes of these social vulnerabilities that create inequities, that make the pollution-burdened areas more vulnerable to extreme heat.”
Her department is allocating approximately 30% of its budget toward heat-risk prevention work, she told the Los Angeles Times.
Previously, Segura was also appointed as Los Angeles’ first Climate Mobilization Director in January in order to respond to and help “turn around” the worldwide climate disaster, according to a press release that refers to her as an “environmental justice leader.”
Segura also worked as the Southern California Climate Engagement Director at the Center For Biological Diversity, a nonprofit group dedicated to environmental activism, according to her LinkedIn profile.
The office of the city manager in Phoenix referred the Daily Caller News Foundation to its press release.
Segura, the Los Angeles DPW and the Miami-Dade County’s mayor’s office did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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