There Are More Ways Than Ever to Die From Extreme Heat

The Washington Post has an excellent series going on the human cost of the climate crisis. But brace yourself.
IMAGE Mario Tama // Getty Images

Once again, we check in with the Washington Post, which clearly has spent time and money to become the Jiminy Cricket of the climate crisis. In the last couple of days, as part of a series called "The Human Cost," we've seen an examination of the crisis's role in contagious disease and, on Wednesday, a detailed report on the terrible effects of extreme heat on the mentally ill.

The former concentrated on Pakistan, which has become rather the index patient for epidemic disease and its relation to the climate crisis:

An elderly woman died in a boat on the way to the hospital, overcome by heat and dehydration. Dark clouds of mosquitoes bit through even the toughest donkey’s hide, spreading malaria to Yaqoob and four dozen of his neighbors. People came down with itchy dermatitis from walking through the floodwaters. Farmers who could not plant in drenched fields began cutting back their simple meals of vegetables and rice from three a day to two. And then, for some, just one...Pakistan is the epicenter of a new global wave of disease and death linked to climate change, according to a Washington Post analysis of climate data, leading scientific studies, interviews with experts and reporting from some of the places bearing the brunt of Earth’s heating. This examination of climate-fueled illnesses — tied to hotter temperatures, and swifter passage of pathogens and toxins — shows how countries across the globe are ill-prepared for the insidious, intensifying risks to almost every facet of human health.


I don't know about you, but I can't wait for the moment when waves of heat-related epidemic disease sweeps over this country and the government finds it necessary to mandate masks, lockdowns, and vaccinations on a bigger scale even than that of the recent pandemic. Anyway, here's how all this works.

The number of heat stroke patients coming to the hospital in summer has increased around 20 percent a year in the last five years, according to M. Moinuddin Siddiqui, the hospital’s medical director, at a time when Pakistan experienced three of its five hottest years on record. The changing climate has affected people in painful ways, Siddiqui said, including high-grade fevers, vomiting, diarrhea and related diseases such as gastroenteritis. “I have been a doctor here for two decades and such climate changes I have not seen before. It’s disheartening,” he said. The proliferation of climate ills has taxed this regional hospital center at the same time it has taken in patients from 12 nearby clinics and medical dispensaries swept away in the flood, he said.The hospital has taken a variety of “special measures” to support the heat patients, including creating the small stroke unit, where patients are treated before either being admitted or sent home with electrolyte powder packets for rehydration. They also added air conditioners in every ward, but sometimes even those don’t cool enough to make patients comfortable.

The Wednesday installment discussed the effect of this past summer's brutal heat wave on people with schizophrenia. It traces it through an afflicted man named Stephan and the day he walked to his death in Phoenix.

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When temperatures surge, the effects of schizophrenia can be profound. During the record-breaking heat wave in British Columbia in Canada in 2021, for example, researchers found that an astonishing eight percent of the people who died in the heat had been diagnosed with schizophrenia — rendering it more dangerous, when combined with heat, than any other condition studied. Michael Lee, an epidemiologist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and one of the study’s authors, said people with chronic kidney disease were 36 percent more likely to die during the heat wave than in normal conditions. In people with schizophrenia, it was over 200 percent.

People with schizophrenia are more likely to be unhoused or economically vulnerable — but that’s not the only reason they are at greater risk. Drugs prescribed for schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses dehydrate patients and make it harder for their bodies to manage high temperatures. There is also evidence that these patients have inherent difficulty dealing with temperature changes. “People with schizophrenia have more difficulty thermoregulating,” said Joshua Wortzel, a psychiatrist at Brown University.

Stephan's wanderings came to a sudden, abrupt end in a vacant lot outside Phoenix.

The police and EMTs arrived at 1:48 p.m. The police removed Stephan’s semiautomatic pistol and turned his body over, according to a police report obtained by The Washington Post. Blood was already beginning to pool in his face and stomach, but for about 15 minutes, emergency responders attempted to revive him. They placed his head on the pillow that he had carried with him for the past two days. Later, the medical examiner’s report showed that the ground where Stephan fell was 136 degrees. At 2:16 p.m. — less than 36 hours since he apologized to his grandfather on a busy street — Stephan Goodwin was pronounced dead.


Here, with an opposing view, from April, is an actual member of the United States Congress.

"People are not affecting climate change. You’re going to tell me that back in the Ice Age, how much taxes did people pay, and how many changes did governments make to melt the ice? The climate is going to continue to change. And there is no reason to just open up our borders and allow everyone in and continue to funnel over $50 billion or however many billions of dollars or trillions of dollars to foreign countries all over the world simply because they don’t like the climate change.”

Take that, malaria. Scoreboard!

We're doomed.

From: Esquire US

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About The Author
Charles P. Pierce
Charles P. Pierce, lead for Esquire Politics US, has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.
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