Climate change and urban development are turning Phoenix, Arizona into a blast furnace. Last year, Phoenix suffered through 144 days of temperatures reaching 100 degrees or higher.
Low-income areas of the city experienced even higher temperatures. A reporter from Vox visited one neighborhood, where are the average household income is $19,000 a year, to learn more about this scorching new normal.
The particular Zipcode she visited has the highest level of heat-related illnesses in the city. If you watch the video, you'll see that it is mainly asphalt and concrete. No trees or sidewalks are in sight.
The city is making efforts to paint roofs and roads with reflective materials. But reflective paint doesn't help a lot. What helps is trees. The big difference between the poor and hot and wealthy and cool neighborhoods is trees. As one person in the video said, trees are a "very important engine of cooling. If you take an area that's just parking lots and buildings and cover at least a quarter of the space with trees you can lower air temperatures there by around 8°F, according to a study from Arizona State University."
Phoenix is now spending money to plant more trees around the city with a minimum canopy coverage goal in the next decade. The problem with this program is that in poorer neighborhoods, home renters can't afford to water the trees on their property, even when you take into account reduced air conditioner bills. The city has no plans to reimburse residence for watering costs. Unless Phoenix figures this out, it's going to end up with thousands of dead trees and a lot of sick people in the middle of a desert.