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California leads world with new heat wave ranking law to protect from deadly effects of climate change

News: 2022 Press Release

For Release: September 9, 2022
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California leads world with new heat wave ranking law to protect from deadly effects of climate change
Commissioner Lara and bill supporters praise Governor Newsom’s signing of AB 2238

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With much of California in the grips of a record-breaking heat wave, Governor Gavin Newsom took urgent action today by signing Assembly Bill 2238, sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and jointly authored by Assemblymember Luz Rivas, Eduardo Garcia, and Cristina Garcia.

AB 2238 will create the nation’s first statewide ranking and early warning system for heat waves to help Californians prepare. The idea of ranking heat waves was first proposed by Commissioner Lara and his California Climate Insurance Working Group, which issued a new report in 2021 aimed at protecting Californians who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

“California is once again leading the world in fighting climate change and its deadly effects. Ranking heat waves will be a powerful new tool to protect all Californians alongside Governor Gavin Newsom’s extreme heat action plan,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who sponsored Assembly Bill 2238 and issued the first California Climate Insurance Report. “I applaud the Governor’s and the joint authors’ continued leadership on these necessary extreme heat investments and policies that will save lives and close the protection gap for our most at-risk communities as we face more heat waves in the years ahead.”

“I represent communities that are disproportionately bearing the brunt of extreme heat weather events. Climate change is impacting all Californians in different ways. While climate change is escalating sea level rise along our wealthier and cooler coastal communities, it is also driving extreme heat in our lower income inland communities,” said Assemblymember Luz Rivas, joint author of AB 2238. “We must prepare and plan accordingly to help everyone. I am proud of all my colleagues who have also introduced legislation this year to ensure the state is proactively addressing extreme heat. Thanks to the visionary leadership of Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, and the Governor’s commitment to supporting legislation combating extreme heat, we will now be able to ensure residents are properly notified of the upcoming severity of a heat related weather system.”   

“When extreme heat strikes, it strikes deadly. Establishing a first-in-the-nation heat wave ranking and warning system will help California better protect environmentally vulnerable communities, like those in the Coachella Valley, and Imperial County areas I represent, and importantly help save lives,” said legislation joint author, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. “We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Assemblymember Luz Rivas and Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara on this lifesaving legislation as California continues to lead climate change policy action.”

“Today, we congratulate Governor Newsom for taking swift action to protect Californians from extreme heat by signing AB 2238. People do not have to die from heat and this groundbreaking legislation goes a long way toward protecting 40 million Californians with a new, health-based heat warning system,” said Kathy Baughman McLeod, Director of the Arsht-Rock Resilience Center at the Atlantic Council and member of the Climate Insurance Working Group. “This new legislation will enhance existing heat warning systems by categorizing heat waves based on their impact to human health and serve as a global model as the frequency and intensity of climate-driven heat waves explodes across California. The Arsht-Rock Resilience Center congratulates and comments California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara for sponsoring the bill and its authors, Assemblymembers Luz Rivas and Eduardo Garcia, who skillfully guided it through the legislative process. We celebrate this important and timely milestone and look forward to partnering with the state to put this new warning system in place.” 

“We are pleased to see AB 2238 signed into law, and thank the Legislature and Governor Newsom for working to protect communities from extreme heat, particularly communities of color who are disproportionately exposed to this climate threat,” said Sona Mohnot, Associate Director of Climate Equity, Greenlining Institute, and member of the Climate Insurance Working Group. “Ranking heat waves will help us identify extreme heat as the life-threatening emergency it is and give communities the information needed to stay safe, healthy and protected.”

“It’s not every day that we can say that a new law will save lives. Today is one of those times. Governor Newsom’s signing of Assembly Bill 2238 will protect our most at-risk communities, our elderly, and our outdoor workers from the deadly threat of heat waves in the future,” said Mary Creasman, CEO of California Environmental Voters (EnviroVoters). “Thanks to the vision of Commissioner Lara and the California Climate Insurance Working Group and the leadership of the bill’s authors, millions of Californians will be better prepared through ranking and early warning of heat waves.”

According to the text of AB 2238, “Heat waves and extreme heat are responsible for more deaths than all other extreme weather events, and disproportionately impact communities of color, persons with disabilities, seniors, and low-income communities.” Under the bill, the California Department of Insurance will study the costs of extreme heat waves and the insured and uninsured costs related to past extreme heat waves in order to identify “insurance gaps” of uncovered costs and promote more effective risk communication and planning. The statewide heat wave ranking system will be in place by January 1, 2025.

Commissioner Lara also applauded Governor Newsom’s signing of Senate Bill 852, authored by Senator Bill Dodd, to authorize the creation of climate resilience districts that prepare and protect communities. The idea for the bill was another recommendation from the Climate Insurance Report.

“As a proud co-sponsor of SB 852, I commend Senator Dodd for authoring this important measure that takes a major step towards reducing community-wide risks by authorizing the creation of climate resilience districts across California, to help communities mitigate risk in advance of a disaster and promote their recovery,” said Commissioner Lara. “SB 852 also promotes a recommendation from my Department’s first-ever climate insurance report that would improve access to insurance for all, so that we can better prepare ourselves from increasing climate change-related threats.”

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Media Notes:

Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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