With much of California in the grips of a record-breaking heat wave earlier this month, Governor Gavin Newsom took urgent action on September 9th 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.”
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.
“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.”
Learn more at insurance.ca.gov.