Urban heat islanding is doing real damage to our city. It raises electrical costs for everyone. Makes our days unbearable, our nights barely less so. It wasn’t this way even a few decades ago. I will always remember my father talking about how great Phoenix was, because even though it got hot – real hot – in the afternoon, as soon as the sun went down it cooled off, and the nights were spectacular, even in the middle of summer. That cooling would then last well into the next day. Now? We have days where it never drops below 100 degrees, nights can be almost as miserable as the day, and by 9am we’re flat cooking again.
What changed is very simple: we poured a lot more concrete onto a lot more open desert land. It’s cooking us – and some studies have even suggested that the heat bubble we’re creating is pushing away some of the monsoons we count on for our environment.
There are three very simple things we can do to stop and even reverse this trend, and Phoenix is already doing all of them, we just need to do a whole lot more: planting trees and other low-water use plants, building shade structures that don’t absorb heat, and re-surfacing our roads and rooftops with lighter materials designed to prevent heat absorption. And, unfortunately, while the current Mayor and Council have made these things a theoretical priority, their actions show that heat mitigation is not as crucial to them as hiring more of their friends.
In creating an office of Heat & Climate Readiness, the Council has doubled, in some cases tripled and quadrupled the cost of doing each of these. And again, we were already doing them. We had people in place to handle this, and could simply have allocated more money to each of these programs. Instead, we hired a Heat Mitigation Officer, whose job consists of nothing more than telling us to do more of what we’re already doing, while their salary and support staff actually means we’ll be able to afford less of it. Likewise, we’re hiring an arborist to tell us to plant more trees, but again, with the cost of hiring and staffing, that person will do nothing but ensure we end up planting FEWER TREES.
This is completely ridiculous, but entirely in line with the priorities of a Mayor and Council whose leading members are far more interested in lining up their next run for a higher office than in serving the people of Phoenix. Me? I want the trees, the cool pave, and lots more shade, and I have no interest in wasting money hiring more specialists to do what we’re already doing.