Europe hits heat records
The United Kingdom broke its record for the hottest day ever on July 19, with a temperature of 40.3 degrees Celsius (104.5 degrees Fahrenheit). The previous record was from 2019, at 38.7°C (101.1°F).
“I wasn’t expecting to see this in my career,” said the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office Chief of Science and Technology Stephen Belcher, “but the UK has just exceeded 40 degrees Celsius for the first time. In some ways 40°C is an arbitrary figure, because we see the impacts of heat waves at lower temperatures, but, for me, it’s a real reminder that the climate has changed and it will continue to change.”
Met Office Chief of Science and Technology, Professor Stephen Belcher, reflects on the UK breaching 40°C for the first time pic.twitter.com/d57FGJx8To— Met Office (@metoffice) July 19, 2022
Britain isn’t the only country afflicted by the heat wave. Countries across Europe experienced temperatures in excess of 40°C. Temperatures in Spain reached 47°C (117°F) earlier this month. Spain, France and Greece have all experienced fires due to the heat. It’s another reminder that climate change isn’t just coming — it’s already here.
Housing vouchers going far
In slightly more uplifting news, per a press release from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), “Emergency Housing Vouchers are being put to good use in King County, with 786 households permanently housed. King County has leased 58% of the region’s federal voucher allocation, compared to the national average of 36%.”
In May 2021, more than 1,300 federal housing vouchers were issued to the King County Housing Authority, the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) and the Renton Housing Authority via the American Rescue Plan (disclosure: this journalist’s mother is the communications director for SHA). Six months after issuance, only 10 had been utilized, so housing another 776 households since then is a large increase in utilization.
With thousands of people still experiencing homelessness in the region, there’s a long way to go, but we are at least using more of the resources available to us than most. Silver linings, baby!
King County declares fentanyl emergency
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who has proposed a whole lot of legislation while running to represent Washington’s 8th District in the House, can credit himself with another legislative victory: the fentanyl overdose epidemic is now an official public health emergency in the county. Co-sponsored by councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Sarah Perry, the legislation was approved on July 19.
It will, as so many of Dunn’s other bills have done, direct the county to do something about it.
“In addition to declaring the public health crisis, the motion tasks King County with identifying strategies and recommendations to amplify its efforts to reduce fentanyl-related deaths. This work would be performed by Public Health — Seattle & King County,” according to a county press release announcing the bill’s passage.
Besides studying the problem, the bill doesn’t have any other provisions.
Kohl-Welles signed on, she said, due to a family experience with fentanyl addiction.
“When she was in her late 80s, my mother became addicted to fentanyl through following her prescription, but fortunately we caught it in time. And a very young nephew of my husband overdosed on it and died. It hits all social and economic sectors. In addition to raising important awareness, this legislation will ensure that Public Health — Seattle & King County is working to reduce the harm associated with fentanyl, educating folks about the risks, and keeping more people in King County alive,” she said in the press release.
There’s no word on safe injection sites or publicly provided test strips, which can identify fentanyl in other drugs and help prevent accidental overdoses, but the bill will, according to its sponsors, raise a lot of awareness.
Fire season is officially on
It’s lit! That is, Washington’s first major fire of 2022. The Stayman Flats Fire outside of Chelan was a 750-acre blaze first reported on July 18, according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. As of then, the fire was mostly contained, but it’s still the first big one of the season. Hopefully also the last, but let’s be real: August is when we all relearn what PPM stands for.
Per KCRHA spokesperson Anne Martens, the agency recently activated a Tier 1 extreme heat response policy, which offers some funding for cooling supplies to homeless service providers — up to $2000, to be exact. The heat response could also, if the agency deems it necessary, open more cooling centers.
“We will continue to closely monitor the forecast and coordinate with Public Health-Seattle King County and the City of Seattle to prepare for possible activation of cooling centers if a heat advisory is issued for next week,” she wrote in an email sent July 20. The National Weather Service issued one on July 26 that remains in effect for two days.
In theory, that also means more places for unhoused people to breathe filtered air. If you or anyone you know is at risk of smoke inhalation or heat exhaustion, the city, since last year’s devestating heat wave, is up from two to four community centers with air conditioning. It also boasts five senior centers and nine libraries with air conditioning for daytime cooling and clean air. For unhoused individuals, the KCRHA maintains a list of day centers with cooling on their website at https://kcrha.org/severe-weather-update.
Tobias Coughlin-Bogue is the associate editor at Real Change.
Read more of the July 27-Aug. 2, 2022 issue.