Maybe, like hurricanes, we should give heat waves names?
With temperatures (Fahrenheit) touching 111° in Athens, Greece and 124° in Floridia, Sicily, cities and towns are recognizing that we have a problem.
Because cities care about controlling crime and filth, they have Police and Sanitation Commissioners. Now, reflecting new concerns that range from health to tourism, Athens has a Chief Heat Officer (I would have chosen a different name–any suggestions?). As Athens’ CHO, Eleni Myrivili will advocate for more air conditioning, planting trees, and reflective asphalt. She believes that if the city creates standardized heat categories, they could have a predetermined heat response like rerouting power from industrial to residential areas when necessary.
Last June, Portland Oregon had temperature highs of 116 and Seattle, 108. Appointing its new CHO, Miami Dade County cited the increase in the number of days with 90+ temperatures. Below, the darker shades indicate higher temperatures:
Our Bottom Line: Tradeoffs
CHOs are asking cities, already with limited budgets, to plan for future heat waves. However, their big challenge could be the opportunity cost of new programs. With Katrina the perfect example, we only cared about a Category 5 hurricane after it hit. Beforehand, we refused to allocate municipal spending to the preparation that would have mitigated the damage.
Actually though, it all made sense.
Defined as the sacrificed alternative, the opportunity cost was too great. It was more logical to have lower taxes or spend the money on schools and other current needs. So now we can ask what a Chief Heat Officer will accomplish. Perhaps, because we “treasure what we measure,” someone who focused on heat can get more done.
And, there is little opportunity cost to naming a heat wave–maybe we could start with Blaise or Spark?
My sources and more: Reading about Athens’ Chief Heat Officer, I looked for more and found Miami and Sicily. From there, Insider told about heat officers as did the Resilient Cities Network. And finally, The Washington Post warned that the Pacific Northwest might have to endure another heat dome.