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Heat-Related Deaths on the Rise as Senate GOP Pushes to Nix Climate Regulations

Heat-related deaths nearly doubled between 2010 and 2022, according to CDC data.

Eagle Pass Station 1 emergency medical technicians respond to a pregnant woman suffering from dehydration on July 19, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas.

On the heels of what is likely the worst heat wave across the globe in recorded history, data shows that heat-related deaths have been rapidly rising over the past decade — even without yet taking into account this year’s record-breaking heat.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data analyzed by The Guardian, heat related deaths in the U.S. nearly doubled between 2010 and 2022, when comparing the average of that year and the previous four years’ data. This year, meanwhile, is expected to break records for heat deaths, experts say.

“This year looks on pace to potentially break records, in terms of heat and heat mortalities,” Boston University environmental health professor Gregory Wellenius told The Guardian.

“We are seeing the full spectrum of risks, from heat exhaustion to more injuries from dehydration to even new food or water borne illnesses because bacteria can replicate faster in warmer weather,” Wellenius continued. “My guess is that 2023 will prove to be one of the years with the most heat-related excess deaths on record in recent memory.”

This year has already seen a spike in heat-related hospitalizations in some places across states like Nevada and Arizona; according to preliminary data from the CDC, a group of western states saw a rise in heat-related hospitalizations of 51 percent above 2018 levels, for instance. While the CDC data showed that over 1,500 people died of heat-related causes last year, the number is likely far higher, with Wellenius estimating that that figure is actually likely well over 10,000 yearly.

Scientists have said that July’s heat wave across the U.S., southern Europe and northern Mexico would have been “virtually impossible” without the contribution of the climate crisis and the continued burning of fossil fuels.

Yet, in spite of the glaring warnings that the climate crisis is already causing massive disruption, widespread ecosystem damage and death, Republicans are doubling down on their support of the fossil fuel industry.

Party members have spent much of this year lying about the climate crisis and attempting to repeal a wide range of climate and environmental initiatives. Senate Republicans further pursued that goal on Tuesday, when they sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Michael Regan dubiously claiming that the agency’s new plan to propose tighter limits on power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions oversteps the agency’s authority.

Citing the Supreme Court’s far right decision in West Virginia v. EPA, 39 Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), wrote that the EPA doesn’t have the authority to regulate greenhouse gasses from power plants because Congress did not give the agency express permission to do so. This argument is based on a fringe right-wing legal theory known as the “major questions doctrine” that is being weaponized by Republicans to attempt to further entrench climate catastrophe, despite legal experts questioning the theory’s legitimacy.

The EPA isn’t likely to retract its plan due to Republican complaints. But it is a show of the party’s intent to completely gut what exists of U.S. climate policy if a Republican president takes power, as right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation has laid out in a nearly 1,000 page plan called Project 2025. Experts have said that Project 2025, if enacted by a Republican president, seeks to dismantle nearly all sectors of the federal government, including climate and environment-related agencies and policies, and concentrate power into the presidential office, dictator-style.

Republicans are already evidently hard at work laying the groundwork for Project 2025, as the senators’ letter shows. The new EPA plan is slated to be a major part of the Biden administration’s goal of halving emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels — a crucial goal as researchers are suggesting that the climate crisis could be worsening at a quicker pace than expected. And yet, the GOP’s seeming overarching goals don’t include saving life on earth, but rather concentrating power and money into the hands of themselves and their allies.

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