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Climate Change Challenges

Extreme Heat

Climate change will cause more frequent and intense heat waves. Extreme heat exposure is deadly and preventable.

New York City, like other dense urban areas, is warmer than its rural and suburban surroundings. As greenhouse gas emissions cause the planet to warm, New York City will experience more frequent, longer lasting, and more intense heat waves. The average number of days a year above 90°F will likely triple by the 2050s and quadruple by the 2080s. Sustained exposure to high temperatures can harm public health, including dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat-stroke, and even death. In fact, extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related fatalities across the country. In New York City, on average each year, there are approximately 370 heat-related deaths. But all heat deaths are preventable.

NYC Heat Vulnerability Index

The Heat Vulnerability Index (HVI) shows neighborhoods whose residents are more at risk for dying during and immediately following extreme heat. It uses a statistical model to summarize the most important social and environmental factors that contribute to neighborhood heat risk. The factors included in the HVI are surface temperature, green space, access to home air conditioning, and the percentage of residents who are low-income or non-Latinx Black. Differences in these risk factors across neighborhoods are rooted in social and economic disparities. These disparities stem from structural racism, which includes neighborhood disinvestment, and historical policies such as redlining. Central Brooklyn, upper Manhattan, and the South Bronx, and many other parts of the City have the highest heat vulnerability. 

  • Older residents are at most risk because they are more likely to have underlying health conditions and be socially isolated or limited in mobility

  • New Yorkers with mental illness are more vulnerable to extreme temperatures

  • New Yorkers with mental illness are more vulnerable to extreme temperatures

  • New Yorkers in homeless shelters or City jails are also more vulnerable, given that these facilities can lack proper air conditioning

  • Workers in certain sectors of the economy are particularly exposed to heat risks: construction, transportation, utilities, and manufacturing. Many of these New Yorkers work outdoors or in facilities without adequate air conditioning and are subject to sweltering conditions.

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When we bring our voices, our action, and our advocacy to our schools, our homes, and our workplaces, we can create a more sustainable and resilient future for the 8.6 million people who call our five boroughs home.

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