EDITORIAL: One miserably hot weekend is a warning of things to come

Chicago and much of the country are headed for frequent stretches of more intense heat, climate scientists say. We need to take appropriate action.

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Fans cool off from the hot weather during a baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox in Chicago, Sunday, June 17, 2018.

Fans cool off at a White Sox baseball game in June 2018.

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

As you read this editorial, the temperature outside is likely close to 90 degrees.

Or higher.

Add in the high humidity, and the “feels like” heat index could be 100 degrees.

Or higher. 

Chicago and the Midwest are moving into a potentially record-setting heat wave this weekend, making things miserable — and possibly dangerous — for people who work outside, don’t have air conditioning, are elderly or suffer medical conditions that make it hard to cope with extreme heat.

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Imagine things getting even worse, though. More intense heat, blanketing Chicago and much of the country, for longer stretches than just a weekend here and there.

Climate scientists warned us about that scenario this week, in a new report that offers yet more evidence that the United States must take swifter action to combat the worst effects of global warming.

“Extreme heat is poised to rise steeply in frequency and severity over the coming decades, bringing unprecedented health risks for people and communities across the country,” the Union of Concerned Scientists report, aptly titled “Killer Heat,” stated. “By late century, nearly two-thirds of the country would experience off-the-charts conditions in an average year.”

In Chicago in the coming decades, according to the alarming report, we could experience 50 days every year — more than 1-½ months — with a heat index temperature higher than 100 degrees. On more than 30 of those days, the heat index could top 105.

Compare that with the historical norm of just three high-heat days every year, as the report points out.

In southern Illinois, things could become even more dire: 29 days a year in which the heat index could rise to a life-threatening 120 degrees. 

We’ve written more than once that Chicago and the state must pick up the slack from a Trump administration, which is doing as little as possible to curb the carbon emissions that are the primary cause of man-made climate change.

As part of that, City Hall’s plan to bring back the Department of Environment can’t happen soon enough.

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