Letters to the Editor: California’s heat waves aren’t as dramatic as its fires, but they’re just as deadly

A long exposure image shows the El Portal fire burning late Sunday near Yosemite National Park.
(Stuart Palley / EPA)

To the editor: Your superb editorial, (“Wildfires and soaring temperatures — the hellscape scientists warned us about is here,” Sept. 8), correctly identifies the chief culprit of California’s recent heat waves: Climate change.

Climate-change-fueled heat is making California’s wildfires more intense. Our heat waves are driving up electricity use, which has resulted in power outages. Yet, heat waves make lousy B-roll for the evening news. They are not dramatic, just deadly. Extreme heat contributes to more deaths annually than all other climate perils. Heat is a silent killer. Like toxic pollution and COVID-19, heat waves disproportionately impact low-income communities and those with preexisting health conditions.

Unfortunately, the devastating effects of heat are too often ignored — this is especially true in Sacramento. No single agency in state government is responsible for addressing extreme heat. Nor is there coordination among agencies.

We are not powerless in this fight. We can plant trees, especially in low-income communities that lack tree cover. Cool roofing materials and cool pavements can lower neighborhoods’ ambient temperature. Resilience hubs (e.g., new and improved cooling centers) can protect vulnerable people during heat waves, as well as shelter wildfire evacuees, provide backup power and help build social cohesion in our communities.


Jonathan Parfrey, Los Angeles
The writer is executive director of the nonprofit Climate Resolve.


To the editor: I used to feel hope that articles like your recent editorial would instill the burning urgency of our situation. But little changes, even in the face of epic dangers.

Year after year, we set record-high world temperatures. The world suffers record fires in the western U.S., Australia and Siberia, where the temperature climbed over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The ice in the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctic is melting at record rates, and it is accelerating. Warmer oceans bring record storms, pouring down record rainfall around the world, and paradoxically, record droughts. We are destroying the world’s irreplaceable rainforests and their diversity of life. Deadly new diseases are spreading around the world.

We are like the frog in the slowly boiling pot of water. Can we look beyond today’s problems to the catastrophes that will occur in just a few years, when it will be too late? I hope so.

Phil Beauchamp, Chino Hills