Arizona’s Getting Hotter, But State Leaders Oppose Solutions

by JILLIAN MURPHY –

arizona weather

On average, 2,000 Arizonans visit the emergency room because of heat-related illnesses every year. Unfortunately, things are likely to get worse because it’s only getting hotter. This April was just named the hottest on record, making it the 12th consecutive month to break a temperature record. Last year was named the hottest year on record, and at this pace 2016 is set to top it. This week, the Obama administration recognized Extreme Heat Week — something Arizonans have become well-acquainted with in recent years.

Climate change is driving extreme heat in Arizona and around the world. Carbon pollution from power plants contributes to climate change, making our days and our summers even hotter. Extreme heat is especially dangerous for our health, and can even be fatal. It’s estimated that extreme heat could lead to more than 11,000 additional deaths during the summer in 2030, and more than 27,000 additional summer deaths in 2100. High temperatures lead to a buildup of harmful pollution in our air, and for those who suffer from asthma, including more than 175,000 Arizona children, that is a bad recipe.

This problem is especially threatening for the Latino community, where 2.1 million Latinos suffer from asthma across the United States. In fact, Latinos are 60 percent more likely than whites to visit the hospital for asthma-related issues.

Fortunately, the majority of heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable if countries take steps to tackle climate change and prepare for extreme heat events. Across the Obama administration, federal agencies are working with state, local, and tribal governments to prepare for extreme heat so that we can better protect the most vulnerable populations, including children, seniors, low-income households, and those who work outside.

To address the threat of climate change, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency developed the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants — the very pollution that drives climate change and dirties our air. Power plants are the biggest source of this pollution — responsible for 40 percent of the carbon pollution in the United States. The Clean Power Plan aims to reduce this pollution by 32 percent by 2030. The plan sets pollution reduction targets for states and gives them the flexibility to meet those targets in ways that work the best for them, including increasing clean energy development and improving energy efficiency. In so doing, the Clean Power Plan will produce safer, cleaner energy while cutting dangerous carbon pollution, providing huge economic and health benefits to the American people.

The good news is that Arizona has one of the highest potentials for clean energy deployment. A recent study found that 15 existing solar and wind projects combined with several future clean energy projects could provide more than 4,300 megawatts of electric power. This is nearly enough to fully meet Arizona’s pollution reduction target set by the Clean Power Plan.

Despite the state’s clean energy potential and the risks extreme heat poses, Arizona’s leaders are fighting climate action. Arizona’s Attorney General Mark Brnovich is working to block the Clean Power Plan. In doing so, Brnovich is turning his back on the thousands of Arizonans who struggle with asthma, and more than one million seniors who are especially susceptible to extreme heat. Instead, he’s standing up for the goals the polluters who fill his campaign coffers prefer — unregulated carbon pollution.

 

Reprinted with permission from Climate Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress