I like to sleep in a cool room. When the temperature goes up during the day I kind of dread nighttime because I know I’ll overheat even with windows open and fans on. I just learned though about all the potential health risks of hotter nights from climate change. I admit, I was surprised.
He et al (2022) found that higher nighttime heat can mess up how we sleep and the repercussions are pretty significant. Less sleep can lead to damage to the immune system, and increased risks of cardiovascular disease. It also can increase the risks of chronic illnesses, inflammation, and mental health risks. This all leads to an increase in mortality by 60% by the end of the century.
This is obviously bad and seems like more than enough of a reason to act on climate change. But there’s a problem. This isn’t going to impact people equally. People who can afford things like air conditioners will be somewhat protected, while those with lower incomes will suffer greater impacts. So, the people and governments who have the greatest ability to act potentially have the lowest motivation.
Heather McGhee discusses this in her book The Sum of Us. She talks about how people who have high incomes are used to being able to basically buy their way out of risk and this risk of heat is in the same category.
So, how do we trigger urgency? How do we act now to avoid these massive health consequences?