A livable planet as infrastructure: Northwestern heatwave sparks calls for transformative climate action

A livable planet as infrastructure: Northwestern heatwave sparks calls for transformative climate action
Image via Shutterstock.

As the Pacific Northwest and southwestern Canada bake under what's being described as a "once-in-a-millennium" heat dome, green groups on Monday reiterated the need for transformational change to address the climate emergency, while progressive U.S. lawmakers underscored the imperative for any infrastructure legislation to center climate action.

Temperatures exceeded 110 degrees in Portland, Oregon for the second straight day—and the third consecutive record-setting day—on Monday, melting power cables, destroying road surfaces, and causing some homes to shake.

In Seattle, the mercury soared to a record-setting 106 degrees on Monday, with some surrounding areas expected to reach as high as 115 degrees.

On Sunday, the town of Lytton, British Columbia broke Canada's all-time high temperature record, becoming the first place in the country to ever top 45°C (113°F).

As groups including 350 Seattle and Defense Fund PDX mobilized to distribute potentially lifesaving hydration and cooling aid in their communities, they also issued urgent calls for immediate climate action.

Valerie Costa of 350 Seattle said in a statement that the historic heatwave "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's Emily Johnston added that "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."


"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," Johnston added. "Seattle has mostly... made pronouncements. We mean to harness people's energy and anxiety to change that."

Meanwhile, Sunrise Movement PDX called out "legislators in Oregon who claim to be 'acting on climate' who voted yesterday to give the [state] authority to spend hundreds of millions of dollars widening freeways in Clackamas County."

Progressive lawmakers echoed some of climate campaigners' calls and concerns.


Noting Portland's melting power cables, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) called the heatwave "yet another striking example of why our infrastructure package must center climate action to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the worst consequences of the climate crisis."

Blumenauer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in February introduced a bill directing President Joe Biden to declare a national climate emergency and mobilize every resource available to address the crisis.


In a tweet highlighting a Monday rally and march on the White House by the youth-led Sunrise Movement, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) asserted that "making sure our planet is habitable for human life is infrastructure" while calling for "a bold package that tackles the climate crisis."


In addition to much of the western part of the continent, much of New England also experienced extreme temperatures on Monday, with heat advisories in effect across the region.

Amid triple-digit heat indexes in Massachusetts, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced he would re-introduce the Preventing Health Emergencies And Temperature-related (HEAT) Illness and Deaths Act "to combat the threat of extreme heat" and "strengthen inter-agency efforts to study and address extreme heat while providing millions of dollars in grants to reduce exposure to extreme heat."

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