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'Silent killer': Extreme temperatures causing worldwide harm

Extreme heat, dubbed "a silent killer," might not be as dramatic as hurricanes or tornadoes, but its consequences can be just as deadly.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — From sweltering heat in Europe to heat-induced rolling blackouts in Texas, recording-breaking temperatures have been the talk of many across the globe. 

CNN recently reported that Miami-Dade County appointed their first ever "chief heat officer" in 2021, which set the precedent for other major cities to do the same. Jane Gilbert is now in charge of raising the public's awareness about the dangers of extreme heat to the same level as hurricanes.

Gilbert told CNN that previous climate-related work was rarely about extreme heat. 

"Heat was not a big focus," Gilbert told the outlet. "I ended up putting it into the city of Miami's climate-ready strategy because when I did neighborhood-level outreach on our planning process and was really drawing out what people's biggest concerns were related to climate change, extreme heat and the compound risks of extreme heat with [a] hurricane came up a lot."

Extreme heat, dubbed "a silent killer," might not be as dramatic as hurricanes or tornadoes, but its consequences can be just as deadly.

"Unlike flooding or wildfires destroying a town, the sense of urgency around a deadly heat wave is not so dramatic, said Kristie Ebi, a climate and health researcher at the University of Washington.

"When it's hot outside, it's just plain hot outside — and so it's a relatively silent killer," Ebi told CNN. "People are generally unaware and don't think about the risks associated with these high temperatures."

In Tallahassee, Florida, heat may have contributed to the death of an 11-month-old after the child was left in a parked car for what the police said was for "an extended period of time."

Although it's not yet known whether the child died from heat-related causes, temperatures by 1-2 p.m. climbed into the upper 80s, National Weather Service data shows.

Research has shown that cars left in the sun for less than an hour can become "deathtraps," meaning after 20 minutes, the temperature inside a car at about 88 degrees can surpass 110 degrees. The temperature climbs even higher after a more significant period of time.

According to the United State Department of Transportation, leaving children in the car is even more dangerous because a child's body heats up three to five times faster than an adult's.

In Europe, the heat is causing London's Fire Brigade to work its busiest day since World War II, with firefighters responding to more than 2,600 calls and fighting 12 fires simultaneously at one point, according to Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Climate projections not predicted to happen until 2050 are currently underway in Britain, Yahoo news reports. Climate scientist Dr. Simon Lee, of Columbia University, said on Twitter: "In 2020, the Met Office, produced a hypothetical weather forecast for 23 July 2050 based on UK climate projections. Today, the forecast for Tuesday is shockingly almost identical for large parts of the country." 

With the lack of air conditioning, Europe does not have the same infrastructure to handle the heat. Triple-digit temperatures are wreaking havoc causing rail lines to shut down over concerns the tracks will bend, a tarmac at an airport melted halting flights and wildfires to break out. 

RELATED: Why is it so hard for Europe to deal with a heat wave?

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced new actions on climate change that he can take on his own just days after an influential Democratic senator quashed hopes for a sweeping legislative package of new environmental programs this year. 

The executive actions include new initiatives to bolster the domestic offshore wind industry as well as efforts to help communities cope with soaring temperatures through programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a White House official.

But the actions that Biden announced will not include a national emergency declaration to address the climate crisis.

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