Air conditioning in a world on fire

On July 13, Multnomah County officials released a preliminary report on the effects of the extreme heat event in late June that too over 100 dead throughout the state.

According to the report, most of the fatalities were people who did not have access to air conditioning.

“More people died from the heat of the June 2021 heat wave in Multnomah County than in the entire state of Oregon in the last 20 years,” the report said. “It is already clear that the destruction of the climate by extreme heat events is more frequent, more intense and lasts longer.”

The report also highlights that those over 65, homeless, and those prone to prolonged heat were also most likely to die during the late June heat event.

However, according to experts, access to personal air conditioning is an important factor in surviving temperatures that can endanger human life.

“Air conditioning has proven to be one of the best ways to reduce heat-related deaths.” DR. Vivek Shandas said in a recent discussion with Portland State Vanguard. Shandas is an Associate Professor at the Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning and an Associate Researcher at the Center for Urban Studies at Portland State.

As of 2021, the state of Oregon will not require landlords to have air conditioning for their tenants. Colleges across the state that have thousands of students on campus at any one time also do not have such requirements.

Air conditioning guidelines

Before the extreme heat event in June, University Housing and Residence Life (UHRL) responded to an email from vanguard Inquire about the use of personal air conditioners in dormitories.

“Portable AC units are not allowed,” says the power supply’s response. “However, [students] buy a small evaporative cooler. ”

In the email, the requirements for such an evaporative cooler were described, which states that it “must not exceed 150% the size of the cooler”. [dorm] Unity “and the”[the student] may need to use less electricity [their] Dorm / unit. “

UHRL has also taken several measures to address the recent extreme heat event. According to Christina Williams, director of media & public relations for Portland State, UHRL “has placed AC units or commercial fans in certain hallways that store more heat to aid airflow, and plans to add more if we can are to secure them. “

Leave the windows open if the UHRL corridors are below 90. were° F Grad was reported not to have raised any safety concerns, but in addition, PSU had a refrigerated area open to residents until September 22.

PSU isn’t the only college in Oregon that doesn’t allow personal air conditioners in dorms.

At Oregon State University (OSU) Stephen Jenkins is Deputy Vice-Rector for Student Affairs and Managing Director of the University Housing and Gastronomy Service, who with vanguard about the guidelines of the OSU.

“According to our UHDS Policy Guide, personal air conditioners are not allowed,” said Jenkins. “However, as in all cases, if there is a need for accommodation, we work closely with the students and the disability service office through an interactive process to find suitable accommodation.”

PSU also said they took steps to protect students from the extreme temperatures. Williams said the June heat wave was “an unprecedented event” and in the days leading up to the great heat, “[UHRL] and key facilities and emergency personnel from across the university ”met to set up fan usage and cooling stations-and Emergency shelters which, according to their own information, are used by around 20 students.

Assurances aside, what is owed Oregon-based student renters in relation to a safe environment requires a statement of student rights as renters.

Tenant rights not for everyone

“Housing tenancy law in Oregon is largely covered by covered Chapter 90 of the Revised Oregon Bylaws “, Troy Pickard in a discussion with The vanguard. Pickard is the executive attorney and founder of the Portland Defender law firm, which has specialized in Portland tenant rights and landlord disputes for over a decade.

“There are some exclusions from that, and one of the exclusions is generally going to an educational institution,” Pickard said. “So if you are a student and live in a dormitory on campus, you are almost certainly excluded from the regular landlord-tenant rules.”

One of the more important aspects of a landlord-tenant relationship is the commercial contract with regard to the legal term “Habitability. “

“Oregon’s Habitability Act requires a landlord to provide ‘effective … roof and outer walls’ weather protection,” said Pickard. “The list in ORS 90.320 is illustrative and not exhaustive, so if a tenant were to rent a house that simply couldn’t be cooled down, for example [90°F]“Maybe this tenant would claim the house is uninhabitable, even though the temperature is not specifically addressed.

The difference between what a university offers a student in dorm rooms and what a landlord has to offer a tenant under ORS 90 can often be shrouded in nuances. However, according to Pickard, the laws may allow students less procedural rights than tenants in a standard lease.

“The legal difference is that the university doesn’t have to worry about what ORS 90 says about habitability standards, schedules and eviction processes, etc.,” Pickard said.

The PSU did not respond when asked to comment on the data on the cost of air conditioning for students living on campus.

However, given the significant cost of air conditioning for a single tenant or homeowner, the economics of air conditioning policy for large facilities such as colleges or apartment buildings deserve more attention.

Funds and Studies

College students living off campus also face challenges. Oregon generally does not require landlords to provide air conditioning, and student renters can be at risk from negligent or predatory landlords by the Federal Trade Commission. to be bullied Calls “Phantom rentals” or “pirated advertisements”.

The compatibility of student and tenant rights is scientifically and procedurally still in its infancy. As a result, there is limited data on the number of times college students are specifically scammed by landlords or otherwise denied habitability.

College student protection is generally more focused on student loan debt relief, Loan service or civil rights issues related to personal data.

Policies like those of the PSU and OSU not to provide air conditioning in dormitories force students to have an economic burden that statistically has fewer resources for items like a personal air conditioner, depending on the make or model Services at costs in excess of hundreds of dollars.

In 2019, according to a Federal Reserve report, 40% of Americans couldn’t afford a $ 400 emergency and generally didn’t have that amount in their savings accounts. At the same time in an institution for university politics analysis, researchers found that an estimated 70% of working-class and middle-class students cannot afford college at all.

After a 2019 opinion poll from OneClass, an education services company, of 399 students attending over 82 schools they used for the study, the majority of students had “between $ 51 and $ 500” in their bank accountsand nearly 15% of respondents had less than $ 50 in their bank account.

Research from 2018 “Still hungry and homeless in college“Study, conducted by Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, shows that over 30% of respondents were” food unsafe “and another 36% said they had” unsafe housing. ” Almost 10% said they had been homeless in the 12 months prior to the survey.

In addition, there is evidence that students at all levels are not only safer but also more productive when they have access to reliable and more comfortable living and working environments.

In one recently to learn Of over a million New York public school students, researchers found that “Students who take an exam on a day when the outside temperature [90°F] scores 13% of a standard deviation worse than for a [65°F] Day.”

What’s next?

Climate change is believed to exacerbate and expose more of these underlying challenges for college students and renters in general, as well as their ability to be safe and secure in their respective housing situations.

Global warming is already endangering tenants in the US with sea level rise in coastal areas, extreme flooding in typically dry environments and increasingly diverse climatic experiences for rich and poor. Climate change will influence energy and economic policy over the next few decades.

Rough 116 million tons Carbon dioxide is released every year by air conditioning. However, the total US CO2 spending in 2019 was an estimated 6.6 billion tons Government analysis.

Regardless of which industry or branch emits the most greenhouse gases, the result is still the same: Extreme weather events are increasing and an environment can no longer protect itself from the vagaries of man-made climate change.

“Finding water is my first rule,” said Shandas. “Few things are more cooling than spending time with your body in the water.”

“[Furthermore]sweat cools the body, and since we live without moisture in the Pacific Northwest, the best way to stay cool is to go outside and let the breeze evaporate the sweat, ”Shandas continued.

According to the National Weather Service Data, Extreme heat is the number one killer when it comes to climate or weather related deaths; If temperatures keep rising, so will deaths from the heat.

“I see a ‘perfect storm’ brewing,” Shandas said. “In view of rising apartment / rental prices and increasing gentrification, I assume that many people are living in financial need … [and] the ability to operate an air conditioning system seems increasingly difficult. “

The Oregon fire season is already well underway, with the bootleg fire in southern Oregon already being the largest fire in the adjacent United States, burning thousands of acres every day. Higher daily average temperatures will be more common in the Pacific Northwest, and those who do not have access to air conditioning will pay the price.

“We [in the PNW] can certainly be better than promoting our ‘climate credibility’ and putting in place policies that prevent the most vulnerable from dying unnecessarily and provide a safe environment for our students, ”said Shandas.