Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Thermometer reading over 100F

Extreme Heat

Heat is among the most significant consequences of climate change that humanity faces. Effectively addressing this challenge in the US will require innovative policy approaches.

Over the last 30 years, heat exposure has killed more people in the US than any other weather-related phenomenon. Heat exposure has caused almost twice as many deaths as floods, and has caused as many deaths as tornadoes, cold weather, and hurricanes combined. Clear evidence links heat to a variety of negative impacts on human health and to economic impacts of labor loss, hospital visits, and reduced agricultural yield.

Heat is particularly dangerous for vulnerable, under-resourced communities, and climate change is expected to make the threat worse in coming years. Yet public and private sector decision-makers in the United States have been slow to recognize heat as a health hazard or invest in mitigation measures to effectively address the challenge. This is true even in the US South, where extreme heat is a persistent threat.

The Nicholas Institute launched the Heat Policy Innovation Hub to help decision-makers at all levels to understand the risks and impacts associated with extreme heat—and to identify policy approaches that protect individuals and communities. The hub integrates lessons from science with insights from community engagement to develop innovative and effective policy solutions for extreme heat. This work is strengthened by collaboration with external partners and with globally recognized experts across Duke University, including researchers and practitioners in medicine, health, policy, engineering, environment, and ministry.


Heat Policy Innovation Hub

The Heat Policy Innovation Hub brings together scientists and communities to develop and deploy innovative policy solutions that reduce the impacts of extreme heat on human health and well-being.

HeatWise Policy Partnership

Duke is convening a brain trust of researchers, policymakers, and corporate and community leaders to accelerate protection of US communities against heat events.

Climate Risk Analytics and Insurance Innovation in North Carolina

This pilot program explores how insurance industry tools and innovations could help North Carolina communities protect their people and economies from climate threats.

Heat Action Plans

The Heat Policy Innovation Hub is partnering with numerous state and local agencies in North Carolina to create a template for a comprehensive heat action plan, designed to equip counties in their preparation for extreme heat events.

High School Athletics Heat Policy Assessment

Developing a comprehensive understanding of how extreme heat affects student-athletes is essential to creating effective preventive strategies and safety guidelines that prioritize athletes' health and safety.

State Hazard Mitigation Planning

The Heat Policy Innovation Hub has assessed the treatment and definition of heat as a hazard in each US state’s most recent hazard mitigation plan and offered recommendations for improvement.

Maternal Health in the Sunbelt

Maternal health is profoundly impacted by chronic heat exposure. Yet the Southeastern US, a region with historically poor maternal health outcomes and high exposure to extreme heat, has seen insufficient research and action on this issue.