U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

July 29, 2023

Dangerously Hot

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

I hope you are reading this inside because it’s hot out there.

The National Weather Service – headquartered in Silver Spring, Md. – has issued an “excessive heat warning” for the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas for today, Saturday, from 12:00 noon through 8:00pm. An excessive heat warning also was issued on Friday. The key takeaway: “dangerously hot conditions with heat index values up to 111 expected.”

This is not a drill or a hoax. We are in record-breaking territory, as about 190 million people nationwide, including Marylanders, are under heat alerts.

We may not live in Arizona, where temperatures have topped 110 degrees for more than 26 days straight, but it is still very hot and, as CNN reports, “heat is the deadliest type of weather, killing on average more than twice as many people each year as hurricanes and tornadoes combined.”

Governor Wes Moore was spot-on this week when he said: “Take preventative measures to deal effectively with this week’s high temperatures and look out for those in your community during these extremely hot summer days … Prolonged exposure to heat could result in heat illness or heat stress.”

If you are in a location that does not have adequate cooling, I urge you to reach out to your local health department or call 2-1-1 to get information about nearby cooling center locations, hours and availability. A list of county health offices can be found at this link. Please don’t forget about your pets, who usually have a lower threshold for heat than their human family members.

In addition to record high air temperatures, we also are experiencing record-high average water temperatures across the Chesapeake Bay watershed adding to an already overburdened ecosystem. According to the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, “While the changes might seem minor from a human perspective—a roughly 1.2-degree Celsius increase from 1960 to 2010— even the smallest shifts in temperature can cause a waterway to become uninhabitable for certain species and make our pollution reduction and habitat management practices less effective.”

Brook trout, which seek out and spawn in cold-water habitats in the Bay’s headwaters, may be the most affected. Blue crabs are more of a warm-water species, but warm water means less oxygen, which could stress the crab populations, as well as striped bass and nearly all the Bay’s marine life.

Extreme weather is happening not just here but around the world. Wildfires in Canada continue to send smoky haze our way. Italy is “baking” and three Greek islands are on fire. The heat index – temp plus relative humidity – in parts of the Middle East has been around 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres declared Thursday that “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.” Guterres was announcing data from the European Union and the World Meteorological Organization, identifying July as the hottest month on record – ever.

The science is undeniable. The frequency and severity of extreme weather can be tied to climate change. And yes, human behavior is a major cause of climate change. The current planetary heat wave adds fuel to our drive to mitigate the circumstances that have put our nation and our planet in this dangerous spot.

Studies have shown that the cost of prevention and resilience efforts are almost always less expensive than recovery and mitigation. If we can reduce the damage, lessen the extremes and keep the lights on, while removing dangerous pollutants from our air and water, we can save lives, property and resources.

Planning for climate resiliency is a matter of urgency and fiscal responsibility, not speculation, which is why the upcoming anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is so important.

August will mark one year since passage of this landmark bill. It is the single largest investment in climate and clean energy in American history. Funding enables us to tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice and secure our position as a world leader in domestic clean energy manufacturing. Energy security and climate change investments we are making today are helping to lower Americans’ electricity bills and prices at the pump, and create good-paying domestic jobs in the green energy sector. It also will help cut our greenhouse emissions by 40 percent or more by 2030.

President Biden announced some specific resilience actions this week, including $1 billion in grants that the U.S. Forest Service will award to help cities and towns plant trees and expand green spaces, which will increase shade and lower temperatures. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is working to fund projects in local communities to make buildings more energy efficient, as well as open more cooling centers so there are places for residents to be safe in the heat. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is launching a new effort with colleges and universities to improve the accuracy of weather forecasts so Americans can be better prepared.

Also this week, Team Maryland, our congressional delegation, announced nearly half a million dollars in IRA funding to develop a comprehensive, community-driven strategy to identify and combat air pollutants that cause health disparities and achieve environmental justice in three historically underserved Maryland communities: Cheverly, Curtis Bay and Turner Station. The Maryland Department of the Environment will work with community partners to monitor air quality and use data collected and community recommendations to implement pollution exposure and risk reduction measures. This is only one of a myriad of federal investments in Maryland.

Ideally, the current heat wave will subside before Maryland students get back to the classroom, but in some parts of the country, the new school year has already begun. Schools and other public institutions must take precautions. Heat-related illnesses – exertional heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and more – are serious medical conditions that result from the body’s inability to cool itself down in extremely hot environments.

Student athletes participating in outdoor sports can be particularly susceptible to these risks. On May 29, 2018, University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair collapsed during a workout on the football field, suffering from exertional heat stroke. He tragically passed away weeks later. Working with the Jordan McNair Foundation, I introduced legislation with Congressman Kweisi Mfume: the Jordan McNair Student-Athlete Heat Fatality Prevention Act. Our bill would require collegiate athletic programs to create heat emergency action plans and to practice those plans to protect student-athletes from life-threatening heat-related illnesses.

The bottom line: heat can be deadly and everyone should take appropriate precautions. We have to protect ourselves against the extremes right now, but we also need to invest in our clean economy to lessen the severe damage to our planet. So keep yourself as cool as possible. Limit outside exposure, if you can. Learn the signs of heat-related illness and keep an eye on your kids, your neighbors and others. Stay hydrated. And take a few moments to think about what improvements you make to your own backyard or patch of sidewalk to reduce pollution, save money, and make the world around you a little more sustainable in the future.

Thank you for your time, as always, please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on this topic or any other.


Ben Cardin