It’s not exactly a sweeping climate action, but at least it’s something.
As the United States (like the rest of the world) swelters under the broiling effects of cataclysmic climate change, the Biden administration has risen to meet this global challenge by giving the people what they want, no, need: a brand new federal website.
Per the White House, the newly launched Heat.gov is “a new centralized portal with real-time, interactive data and resources on extreme heat conditions, preparedness, and response.” Debuted Tuesday, the site’s National Integrated Heat Health Information System is the collaborative work of multiple federal agencies, including the CDC, OSHA, FEMA, and the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“President Biden has directed us to respond to the extreme heat gripping the nation. Extreme heat is a silent killer, yet it affects more Americans than any other weather emergency — particularly our nation’s most vulnerable,” White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy explained on the NOAA’s press release for the new site. “Heat.gov is an exciting new and accessible website designed to help everyone become engaged with their community, their state-level government, and federal partners, to take actions that can reduce the deadly health impacts of extreme heat.”
And the truth is, as far as informative government websites go, Heat.gov is not bad! It’s a fairly straightforward conglomeration of maps and weather forecasts and helpful tips about what to do if you’re someplace hot, and what to do if you’re someplace that’s going to be hot, and so on. It’s got a similar feel to the administration’s belatedly launched COVID website from this past March — a nice thing that doesn’t really seem like it’ll make that much of a difference in the average person’s life, but is cool to have anyway, I guess.
The problem, to me, is that the website, along with the nine other “Ways the Biden-Harris Administration Is Responding to Extreme Heat,” is a fairly good yet potentially ineffectual treatment for symptoms of a larger, more existential crisis — one which the White House seemingly has no real desire to address in a serious way. To the extent that the administration even mentions “climate change” on their 10-point list, it’s always in the context of triaging specific effects, not fighting the underlying cause. To wit:
The Department of Health and Human Services, through the administration’s new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, launched a Climate and Health Outlook to inform health professionals of climate events expected in the next 30-90 days and support proactive action to reduce health risks from heat waves and other extreme weather events.
The overarching message here is one of enthusiastic capitulation to the inexorable slide toward climate collapse — a broad sense of “well, there’s nothing we can really do about it so here’s a few helpful ways to make our eco-apocalypse a little less harsh.” And frankly, at this point, that may be true! But if that’s the case, I’d rather the administration just come out and say so. Instead, the White House is trying to cover the milquetoast middle ground of doing something without actually doing much.
So, yeah, the website is nice, and helpful, and might even come in handy for some folks. And the other things the administration has done to help people mitigate this period of extreme heat are good and useful too. But, let’s not forget that this is all happening as the result of something bigger, badder, and far more complicated than rising temperatures. And let’s not let the White House forget that either.