The heat in Maine over the last month made life unbearable — unsafe even — for anyone without access to air conditioning, and the resulting drought is putting pressure on anyone drawing water from a well, or any farmer not ready to deal with the lack of rain.

Across the country, the same heat wave, made dozens of times more likely by climate change, put outdoor workers in peril while blistering the poorest parts of our cities.

Across the world, in Pakistan and India, the working poor became the walking dead as temperatures soared past 120 degrees Fahrenheit and stayed there, making large parts of one of the most populated areas on the planet nearly unlivable.

We hope Wednesday’s forecasted rain provides some relief in Maine. We also can’t help but notice that the worst consequences of this summer’s heat wave fell on the backs of the people least responsible for the climate crisis, and least able to deal with its fallout.

Marquea Braxton flips steaks on the grill at Woodholme Country Club in Pikesville, Md., where temperatures in the kitchen can exceed 100 degrees. Photo by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post

As we celebrate the passage into law of Inflation Reduction Act, a significant achievement in the existential fight against climate change, we also have to recognize that rising temperatures are already causing problems, and will continue to. To be successful, the climate response must take care to help those folks mitigate the worst the crisis has in store for us.

This summer gave us a preview of what’s in store. San Antonio, where on average they have 18 days over 100 degrees each year, has already had more than 50 such days. Houston, Waco and Austin, too, were 5-8 degrees higher than normal.


By 2053, that’ll likely be the norm. The nonprofit First Street Foundation found that Texas and Florida could see 70 consecutive days with heat index over 100 in 30 years.

It’ll be even worse for low-income residents, who are less likely to have air conditioning and more likely to live in substandard housing in the hottest parts of their communities — where the lack of trees and green space and abundance of asphalt and concrete heat the air even more.

Low-income residents are also more likely to work jobs outdoors, where the rising heat and worsening air quality are a threat to their health and well-being.

 Bradley Taggett takes a sip of ice water during a break from work while working in the heat earlier this month. Press Herald file photo

They’ll also be the ones suffering the most when food and oil prices rise as the climate crisis causes crops to fail and conflict to break out, or when diseases such as Lyme and malaria become more prevalent.

Already, the changing climate is causing agriculture shocks and unrest, here and around the world.

Left to their own momentum, the consequences of climate change will be felt mostly by those who have done the least to cause it, and have little power to do anything about it. That’s simply not right.


Many communities over public “cooling areas” when it gets too hot. Maine has resources to help low-income property owners fix wells, weatherize homes and install air-cooling heat pumps.

President Joe Biden has launched a website,, with information and strategies for beating the heat. His administration works on new rules governing workers outdoors and aid for cities to add cooling features to their landscape.

To fully protect people from rising temperatures, we’ll need those kinds of initiatives and more.

To stave off the worst effects of climate change, the world needs to focus on reducing carbon emissions. The U.S., on the strength of the recent landmark legislation, should lead the way.

But as we shift to an economy run on renewable energy, our leaders can’t forget that climate change is already happening, and it’s hurting some of us worse than others.

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