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Sustainability News

June 23, 2021

A heat dome is baking Arizona and Nevada, where temperatures have soared past 115 degrees this week and doctors are warning that people can get third-degree burns from the sizzling asphalt.

Last month, the Phoenix City Council approved $2.8 million in new climate spending, including creating a four-person Office of Heat Response and Mitigation. “That’s a good start, but we’re clearly not doing enough yet,” said David Hondula, an Arizona State University sustainability scientist who studies heat’s consequences.

Drastically reducing heat deaths would require adding trees and shade in underserved neighborhoods and increasing funding to help residents who need help with energy bills or who lack air conditioning, among other things, he said.

“Every one of these heat deaths should be preventable,” he said. “But it’s not just an engineering problem. It means tackling tough issues like poverty or homelessness. And the numbers suggest we’re moving in the wrong direction. Right now, heat deaths are increasing faster than population growth and aging.”

Hondula was quoted in a New York Times article that has seen readership over 36 million, with more than 7,000 social media shares. ASU faculty, staff and students can read the article with a free group pass subscription via ASU Libraries.