June 28, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Deadly Heat Wave Makes Climate Stakes Clear

Seattle, Washington — From 1894 until last week, Seattle experienced a total of three 100° days. That’s three really hot days in 127 years. Which is happening again right now in….three days.

Use of air conditioners in the Seattle metro may have risen from 31% to 44% in just six years, but that means more than half of even our housed neighbors are experiencing potentially deadly heat right now, with that number being concentrated in BIPOC and lower-income neighborhoods, which also have less access to shade and green spaces. And our burgeoning houseless population, as well as those who have to work outside? Today may beat our previous record (set yesterday) by as much as 7 or 8 degrees; the risks are overwhelming.

“Records are usually broken by a fraction of a degree. To beat an all-time record set yesterday by 7 or 8 degrees is almost beyond belief—even for climate people, who expect bad news,” says 350 Seattle’s Valerie Costa. “This is terrifying proof that we have to transform business as usual immediately, to stop the damage that we can still stop. Lives all over the world depend on it.”

350 Seattle will be holding a summer series on direct action, and its Green New Deal work continues apace, with particular emphasis on healthy affordable housing as a profound climate solution. Additionally, organizers point out that in such circumstances, the absurdity of expanding cruise business or aviation is abundantly evident. “Portland had to shut down all its streetcar and light rail lines yesterday, because equipment was melting,” points out 350 Seattle’s Stacy Oaks. “Adding unnecessary and incredibly polluting cruise ships and flights in an era when this is suddenly possible? Our children will never forgive us.”

Organizers say that this week’s heat, while not truly surprising, is a visceral reminder of the stakes of their work. “People can get air conditioners and then try to forget how wildly abnormal this is….or they can join us in fighting for the immediate transformation that we need,” says 350 Seattle’s Emily Johnston. “Other cities around the world have transformed even in just the last few years, dramatically increasing bike lanes, otherwise shifting land use, and rejecting airport expansion. Seattle has mostly….made pronouncements. We mean to harness people’s energy and anxiety to change that.”

Meanwhile, we cannot forget those at risk right this moment; 350 Seattle is also sending volunteers to help the Transit Riders Union distribute water and ice to the houseless this week.