July Was Phoenix’s Hottest Month Ever. Where Do We Go From Here?

man sweating and drinking from a water bottle

By Jessica Swarner

August 11, 2020

One solution to beat the heat lies in Joe Biden’s climate proposal.

As if COVID-19 wasn’t enough to worry about, Phoenix residents spent the summer simultaneously battling a worldwide pandemic and enduring record-setting heat. 

July was the city’s hottest month ever, with an average daily temperature of 98.9 degrees. 

The average high was 109.8 degrees, while the average low was 88. 

And while nighttime temperatures typically give residents a small reprieve from the heat, the city saw 16 nights that didn’t drop below 90 degrees. 

Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, is also on track to record its highest-ever number of heat-related deaths. 

Last year, 197 people died from the heat. So far this year, there have been 15 confirmed deaths associated with the heat, with 197 under investigation. 

The heatwave has continued into August, where combined annual temperatures in Phoenix have already managed to break the record for the most days hitting 110 degrees or above in a single year.

Only Worse From Here

A 2017 study found that Phoenix is the “fastest-warming big city” in the country, and residents can expect summers to be an average of 3-5 degrees hotter by 2050. 

And more days of extreme heat means more health problems for those living in it.

A recent study found that the world can expect heat to become a major cause of death as time goes on, hitting poorer countries the hardest but still increasing in wealthy countries by 25 per 100,000 people. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic took over as the nation’s most pressing issue, the Trump administration has largely stalled on taking action to fight the rise in extreme heat due to climate change.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly denied the validity of climate change science, although 97% of scientists agree that humans are causing the Earth to warm up. 

After nearly 200 countries committed in 2015 to limit global warming below 3.6 degrees through the Paris Agreement, Trump started the process to remove the U.S. last year. 

The president includes an “energy and environment” section on his campaign website but does not mention climate change.

Possible Changes This Fall

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, however, has made fighting climate change a key part of his election platform.

The former vice president has said he would commit $2 trillion to transition the U.S. to a “clean-energy economy” by 2050. 

He also aims to have the country producing net-zero emissions by then. 

Biden says he would re-sign the Paris agreement and go further than what the U.S. had originally committed to. 

Biden’s plan includes improving public transportation, creating jobs in wind and solar energy, and raising the corporate income tax rate to fund these efforts. 

Recent polling performed by Data for Progress found that a majority of Arizonans approve of Biden’s head-on approach to addressing climate change over Trump’s avoidance of the subject. When asked about climate change, 65% of Arizona residents trust scientists and support massive investments into developing clean energy infrastructure.

Arizonans would also benefit from the natural solutions proposed in Biden’s climate plan, including shade canopies to help places like Phoenix combat the rising temperatures.

“Biden will create a new class of well-paying jobs and job training around climate resilient industries,” the proposal reads. “such as tree plantings on a large scale to combat urban heat and its associated negative health impacts.”

Environmental advocacy groups have praised Biden’s strategy, saying the time is now to move forward on these issues. 

“The Sierra Club is encouraged by Biden’s proposal, which shows he is listening to the continued calls from activists and organizations across the country demanding a bold and ambitious plan that meets the size and scale of the crisis and completes the transition to a clean energy economy,” the group said in a statement.

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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