There is no end in sight for the deadly heatwave that’s been baking the Pacific Northwest since late June, with temperatures threatening to continue breaking new records across Oregon, Nevada and Idaho. In Oregon where temperatures reached an unprecedented 117 degrees, the state’s medical examiner office told USA Today that the heatwave is responsible for nearly 100 deaths.
“This is a harbinger of things to come,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told CBS’s Face the Nation. “We have been working to prepare for climate change in this state for a number of years. What was unprecedented, of course, was the three days of record-breaking heat, and it was horrific to see over 90 Oregonians lose their lives. And we have to continue with our preparedness work.”
Drought conditions are worsening across the region, exacerbating California’s already deadly fires, including the Salt and Lava fires that have burned over 30,000 acres of territory, with smoke drifting as far as western Idaho.
As of Sunday, the medical office listed 95 deaths from heat-related symptoms, with victims ranging in age from 44 to 97. Most were found in homes without air conditioning or fans, and the state is rushing to provide free ACs to people in high-areas to don’t have a unit installed.
“This tragic event is almost certainly a glimpse into the future for Multnomah County, Oregon, the nation and the world,” Public Health Director Jessica Guernsey said statement. “The impacts of climate change with heat waves, severe winter weather, wildfires, floods, and other rippling effects are happening now and will happen with more frequency for the foreseeable future.”
As Guernsey and Brown note, the effects of climate change are not going to reverse themselves. Much has been made about the very high cost of moving to green energy and other sustainable environmental measures, and there’s no doubt that such actions come with a hefty price tag. But as we’re seeing, the cost of not doing them has proven to be significantly higher, and is only increasing.