Amanda Theodorson, Penn State World Campus
Cities are naturally areas of very dense populations. As current cities expand and more cities spring up in varied places around the globe, they affect the local climate in ways that can have serious ramifications for their inhabitants and the areas around them.
Urban heat islands are a result of the way we build metropolitan areas. Closely packed buildings made of dark material and paved streets amplify temperatures more severely than surrounding areas.
Nowhere is this problem more clearly on display than Las Vegas, where the temperature has risen on average about six degrees since 1970 (Associated Press, 2019). It makes sense that a city in the desert would be vulnerable to heat, but the extreme temperature subjects inhabitants and visitors of Las Vegas to danger.
Exacerbated by climate change, the danger is likely to climb. One study cites the correlation between years with peak temperatures and higher heat-related deaths – “From 2007 to 2016, there have been 437 heat-related deaths in Las Vegas, with the greatest number of those deaths occurring in 2016…Interestingly, 2016 also shows one of the highest heat index measures over the last 35 years” (Desert Research Institute, 2019).
While climate change is a global issue that requires uniform cooperation, there are steps that Las Vegas and cities like it can take to reduce the impact of urban heating. “… the Las Vegas area could introduce more vegetation to public spaces, increase urban density, diversify land-use types within neighborhoods and upgrade buildings to be more sustainable.” (Associated Press, 2019). By changing the way that cities are structured to be more heat neutral (introducing more canopy cover, reducing the use of dark pavement, and cutting back on automobile usage), urban planners can alter the way that cities are developed for the better. As the human population continues to rise and more of us move into urban areas, ensuring that they are safe and non-disruptive of local ecosystems is essential.
Associated Press. (2019). Planners Eye Ways to Reduce Vegas ‘Urban Heat Island’ Effect. U.S. News. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/nevada/articles/2019-10-21/planners-eye-ways-to-reduce-vegas-urban-heat island-effect
Desert Research Institute. (2019, June 04). Link between more frequent, intense heat events and deaths in Las Vegas. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190604172651.htm
Oliviah Gearhart, Global and International Studies, College of Liberal Arts
Heatwaves in Phoenix, Arizona, pose a huge threat to the people living there and the infrastructure that has been developed. Heatwaves vary in length from day-long to week-long events of extreme heat and can put certain groups in dire situations that could potentially result in death. These certain groups include the very young and old populations and the poor, due to lack of access to air conditioning or improper hydration. Heatwaves can coincide with long periods of drought or wildfires. Phoenix, Arizona, is specifically vulnerable because of the amount of infrastructure in the city and the already dry, hot climate. The infrastructure adds to the heat because the roads, houses, metal, and concrete absorb high amounts of heat, and because the nights stay warm, the heat has nowhere to escape. This is described as the heat island effect and causes the city to radiate heat. In terms of the climate of Phoenix, by the time air circulates to Phoenix, it is dry. This dry air produces little-to-no clouds, which gives sunlight a direct path to the city, raising temperatures (Irfan, 2019). Sixtenn percent of the population of Phoenix is over 60 years old, and of those people, 10 percent of them live below the poverty line, leaving them extremely susceptible to the dangers of heatwaves (Census Profile…, n.d.).
In 2000, there were roughly fifteen heatwave days in Phoenix, Arizona. By 2030, scientists are projecting that that number will increase to about thirty-five days, and by 2050 that number is projected to be fifty heatwave days (Arizona’s heat…, 2016). A professor from Arizona State University who studies the effects of extreme heat on health says that 130 degree temperatures in Phoenix may be in the near future for the city. It is easy to see how dramatic the effects of climate change have been on this community and how it is important to take action now to prevent this projection from becoming reality. Since 2010, the city has come up with an initiative to double the amount of tree canopy that is currently there, in order to shade a quarter of the city by 2030. This could reduce the temperature of the city by four degrees. A construction code that was created in 2006 that required new buildings to have white or reflective roofs in order to reflect the sunlight and not absorb heat. Some places throughout the city have taken their own initiatives and shaded their parking lots with solar canopies. The sustainability chief of the city wants to make Phoenix a more walkable city and encourage bike riding and public transportation and make residential buildings more energy efficient (Slater, 2019). While these initiatives could reduce the frequency of heatwaves in Phoenix, they will need to be taken seriously to have an impact.
Arizona’s heat threat. (2016, November 07). States at Risk. https://statesatrisk.org/arizona/extreme-heat
Census profile: Phoenix, AZ. (n.d.). Census Reporter. https://censusreporter.org/profiles/16000US0455000-phoenix-az/
Irfan, U. (2019, September 09). 100 degrees for days: The Looming Phoenix heat wave that could harm thousands. VoxMedia. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/9/9/20804544/climate-change-phoenix-heat-wave-deaths-extreme weather
Slater, D. (2019, January 02). Can phoenix remain habitable? Sierra Club. https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2019-1-january-february/feature/can-phoenix-remain habitable
Jenna Kaczmarkiewicz, Mechanical Engineering, Penn State University Park
Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia, located right in the middle of Saudi Arabia. Not only is it in the heart and center physically, but also economically. Riyadh is known as a business and manufacturing center, which is why its population increases by about 4% per year, and is predicted to double from 7 to 14 million by 2030.
Even in Riyadh’s coldest month of January, average temperatures don’t drop much below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In July, the hottest month, the average temperature is about 96 degrees. In their wettest month of April, they average 2.5 centimeters of rain.
As the global temperature increases, especially due to such business and manufacturing causing an increase in emissions, places such as Riyadh are especially vulnerable to heatwaves.
In late summer 2020, several Middle East countries recorded record high temperatures. Temperatures in Riyadh reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit, making it unbearable to go outdoors. A report published by the United Nations said that average temperatures in the Middle East could increase almost 10 degrees. If the dew point reaches above a 95 degree Fahrenheit dew point, it could become inhabitable.
By the end of the 21st century, Riyadh is predicted to be under heatwave conditions for 93.3% of its warm season, about 80 heatwave days per year. Almost its entire warm, summer season will be under heatwave conditions. As prolonged periods of high temperatures increase, it is unlikely Riyadh will be able to support human life in the future.
For areas like al-Shimaisi, this is detrimental. Al-Shimaisi is a poorer area in Riyadh. These poorer areas of Saudi Arabia are inhabited by poor Saudis and foreign workers. The Saudi kids are often sent out to do unethical things just as a means to make an income and survive. These foreign workers can earn less than $300 a month. As if these people aren’t already struggling enough to survive, often their air conditioners, if they even have one, are unable to cool their homes during such extreme temperatures. Not only can these people not bear the heat outside, but can’t escape it in their own homes either.
Without collective action throughout the world to decrease emissions, heatwaves will never be preventable. The best solutions for any person impacted by such heatwaves are to implement cooling systems in their homes to trap cool air in through insolation and keep warm air out through keeping doors, windows, blinds, etc. shut during warmer times. An air conditioning system and healthcare is suggested, but is difficult for those who cannot afford those costs. Those who cannot afford those extra costs can implement green roofs, which soak up and obtain thermal energy. Obviously, drinking lots of fluids to keep hydrated and staying updated with news sources to know information about the conditions of the heatwaves is also essential.
Hassan, F. & Peltier, E. (2020, July 31). Scorching Temperatures Bake Middle East Amid Eid Al-Adha Celebrations. The New York Times. www.nytimes.com/2020/07/31/world/middleeast/Middle-East-heat-wave.html.
Matthies, F. & Menne, B. (2009). Prevention and Management of Health Hazards Related to Heatwaves. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 68(1), 8-12. https://doi.org/10.3402/ijch.v68i1.18293.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Annual Weather Averages. (n.d.). Holiday Weather. www.holiday-weather.com/riyadh/averages/.
Roelants, C. (2017, July 5). Poverty in the Land of Black Gold. New Internationalist. https://newint.org/features/2016/03/01/poverty-in-the-land-of-black-gold.
Sousa, T. et al. (2020, January 22). Population Can Double, Riyadh Plans to Be ‘Mega-Metropolis’. Agência De Notícias Brasil-Árabe. https://anba.com.br/en/population-can-double-riyadh-plans to-be-mega-metropolis/.
Varela, R., et al. Persistent Heat Waves Projected for Middle East and North Africa by the End of the 21st Century. PLOS ONE, 15(11): e0242477. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0242477.
The Indian city of Ahmedabad has been facing an extreme threat that has been exacerbated by climate change. Ahmedabad is plagued by heat waves, which cause extreme damage to the community. This city has always had historically hot summers, however, heat waves are worsening and the threat is only increasing with time. A catastrophic heat wave hit the city of Ahmedabad in the year 2010. During this heat wave, temperatures rose to over 116 degrees fahrenheit. This also caused the tragic deaths of over 1,300 citizens. This extreme heat is one of the most damaging consequences of climate change, resulting in the highest mortality rates. This community is especially vulnerable to heat waves due to the urban heat island effect. The urban heat island effect describes the phenomenon which plagues cities due to its lack of greenery and how well the surfaces in the area absorb heat. This effect causes the city to be substantially warmer than the rural areas around it. The community’s vulnerability doesn’t end when the heat wave does, these impacts are long lasting. It damages the members of the community by increasing the risk of death and heat related health disorders in the city’s most vulnerable populations: children, senior citizens, the poor, and outdoor workers. The forecasted impacts for Ahmedabad’s heat wave issue are bleak. Heat waves in Ahmedabad are forecasted to become more frequent and more intense as time passes. The daily peak temperatures are also predicted to increase, making everyday life more difficult for the members of this community. However, while the heat waves are seeming to get worse, Ahmedabad’s response to defend its city is getting much better. After the 2010 heat wave that devastated the community, the Ahmedabad Municipal Council (AMC) devised a solution to save lives and increase local heat response. This plan was put into action in 2013 and has had very promising results. During the heatwave in 2015, only 7 deaths were recorded in Ahmedabad, whereas the rest of India accounted for 2,300 deaths. This plan involves targeting the vulnerable populations of the city: elderly, children, etc; and identifying why they are at a higher risk. It also includes releasing heat alerts, and increasing response times to protect the more vulnerable individuals. This heat action plan is revisited every year to update findings and increase heat response in Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. (2019, April). Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan 2019. C40 Knowledge Community. https://www.c40knowledgehub.org/s/article/Ahmedabad-Heat-Action-Plan 2019?language=en_US#:~:text=In%202010%2C%20the%20city%20of,heat%20 extremes%20and%20save%20lives.
PwC Network. (2021). A case study on the extreme heat action plan for India. PwC. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/healthcare/casestudies/heat-health-action plan-in-India.html.
Ramirez, R. (2020, December 1). Heat Waves Kill More People Than Any Other Weather Disaster. These Cities Have A Plan. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/heat-waves-cities-climate-change_n_5fad4e44c5b68707d1fcf7e4.
Alyssa Penrod, Architecture, College of Arts and Architecture
Phoenix, Arizona is one of the largest cities in the US and is rapidly growing in population. However, heatwaves and rising temperatures are threatening this growth and the city is under the threat of becoming completely unlivable in the next century due to the changing climate. Phoenix, Arizona is one of the fastest warming cities in the US and it is predicted that by 2060, the city will have, on average, over 130 days of the year at temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The continuing sprawl of the city of Phoenix, with ever growing expanses of concrete, asphalt, and steel all prevent the city from shedding the solar energy pounding down on the city, contributing to the intense heat island effect hurting the city. Rising temperatures threaten older and vulnerable members of the community and droughts impact everyone, from businesses to agriculture to the average person. This will impact the health of local communities, leading to rises in problems relating to people’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems, along with more cases of severe heat stroke and dehydration. Health of Phoenix’s citizens is not the only coming crisis, but the entire infrastructure of the city is and will continue to be greatly stressed and affected by the growing temperatures and predicted heat waves. Rising temperatures slowly degrade roadways, cause bridges to weaken due to metal fatigue from heat, and can make water pipes for transporting water expand, crack, and begin to leak. Power plants lose efficiency in heat waves, while power lines have lower capacity in high temperatures and face higher failure rates across the city. This, combined with more power needs in order to cool houses and commercial buildings, could become catastrophic. There are many responses and solutions to the threat of rising temperatures, although many are short term or cost-prohibitive. Some solutions to reverse the heat island effect include painting roads and roofs with lighter colors or adding more vegetation and shading, especially in areas where more people are outside and walking around.
Bureau of Reclamation. (2012, December). Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study. U.S. Department of the Interior. www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/crbstudy/finalreport/Study%20Report/StudyReport_FINAL_Dec2012.pdf.
Irfan, U. (2019, September 9). 100 Degrees for Days: the Looming Phoenix Heat Wave That Could Harm Thousands. Vox. www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/9/9/20804544/climate-change-phoenix-heat-wave-deaths-extreme-weather.
Mueller, L. (2019, July 5). 6 Cities That Will Be Most Impacted by Climate Change in the Next 20-50 Years. Moving.com. www.moving.com/tips/6-cities-that-will-be-most-impacted-by-climate-change-in-the-next-20-50-years/.
Kira Soricelli, Penn State University
As climate change continues to increase the frequency of heat waves, certain communities are more vulnerable to the drastic effects of global warming. Specifically, in Baltimore, there have been many cases where the heat waves cause a Code Red Heat Alert, especially troubling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only have these heat waves been increasing in intensity and frequency, but in duration as well. In 2019, Baltimore experienced an almost two-week heat wave, with average daily temperatures reaching at or above 90 degrees.The highest temperature recorded was a whopping 106 degrees Fahrenheit, feeling like 115 degrees Fahrenheit. These traditional Baltimore heat waves are deadly and have been significantly increasing in intensity and frequency since 1895 (Dance, 2019).
Baltimore is particularly vulnerable to these heat waves because of their location, which is higher than that of the surrounding suburbia. This is called the urban heat island effect, which is caused by the higher pressure of the city, the lack of tree canopy, and the increased greenhouse gas emissions (Dance, 2019). Furthermore, the poor air quality and intense humidity in Baltimore allows for the adverse effects of heat waves to be more pronounced and prominent. To add, due to the rising sea level and pollution in Baltimore, illnesses related to heat, especially in the poorer communities, is significantly rising.
There are a variety of impacts that Baltimore residents face and will continue to face because of heat waves. For one, power outages are extremely common during heat waves due to the surplus of power and energy. Individuals who have pre-existing health concerns are specifically at a major risk during heat waves. Because of this, there are more emergency calls during times of heat waves pertaining to heat stroke (which can lead to disorientation and even a coma), heat exhaustion, and dehydration. In 2010, there were 32 heat-related deaths in Baltimore (Preston). Additionally, many public events are cancelled or postponed, including religious services, due to heat waves. Coupled with heat-related system failures like taxpayer services, the unemployment rate in Baltimore will likely increase as the economy decreases (much of Baltimore’s economy relies on outdoor activities like fishing and farming). Subsequently, there will be a decrease in biodiversity and wildlife as well as tourist attraction. This will diminish supplies and transportation methods in Baltimore. Hotter air can trap more moisture, making Baltimore more susceptible to extreme events like hurricanes and storms. This can lead to evacuation of Baltimore in extreme cases of temperature. Finally, the heat waves in Baltimore have also been linked to worsening substance abuse episodes in citizens, showing how the heat waves impact people mentally and physically (Steel, 2021).
There are a couple of solutions that can be used to combat the threat of heat waves in Baltimore. On a government level, health officials often activate a heat plan when temperatures have the potential to meet and exceed 105 degrees Fahrenheit. People are cautioned to stay inside, follow up with heat reports, look at heat preparation tips, and familiarize themselves with the updated contact information provided by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). Citizens are then warned to take these necessary precautions. To continue, Supreme Court decisions and federal action, now more than ever, will play an important role in combating climate change that leads to these heat waves. For example, there is a recent Baltimore case against oil giants and the effect that they have had on the immense warming of our planet. The decision for this case will likely stand as a model for future environmental changes. In addition to this, citizens must make an effort to use greener forms of energy like solar panels, battery-powered cars, and wind turbines (Faulknor, 2021). In doing so, the greenhouse effect will hopefully see a decline in the near future. Finally, more specific to Baltimore, it is recommended that the city plant more trees, build more reflective roofs, and heavily instill public transit into daily lives in order to sustain cooling areas (Staff). Although this is not necessarily a solution to the threat, Baltimore should also implement more advanced health care in order to allow for the care of a surplus of residents from all social classes during these expected heat waves.
Dance, S. (2019, July 22). Four Reasons This Baltimore Heat Wave Was Objectively as Awful as It Felt. The Baltimore Sun. www.baltimoresun.com/weather/bs-md-heat-numbers-20190722-2iw5mpxhwfbzxaw6hfgfbciyuu-story.html.
Dance, S. (2019, July 20). Maryland Weather: ‘Excessive Heat Warning’ in Effect; Conditions Prompt Event Cancellations, System Failure. The Baltimore Sun. www.baltimoresun.com/weather/bs-md-excessive-heat-warning-20190719-ddux6bdw3rg6hhll37rstcilfe-story.html.
Faulknor, R. (2021, February 2). How Does the U.S. Supreme Court Affect Climate Policies in Baltimore City? The Johns Hopkins News-Letter. www.jhunewsletter.com/article/2021/02/how-does-the-u-s-supreme-court-affect-climate-policies-in-baltimore-city.
Preston, M. (2012, June 19). EXPECTED MARYLAND HEAT WAVE CAUSES HEALTH OFFICIALS TO ACTIVATE STATE HEAT PLAN. MDH. health.maryland.gov/newsroom/ Pages/Heat-Wave.aspx.
Staff, A. (2021, January 22). The Impact of Climate Change on Maryland. The Southern Maryland Chronicle. southernmarylandchronicle.com/2021/01/22/the-impact-of-climate-change-on-maryland/.
Steel, C. (2021, February 10). Baltimore’s Heatwave Continues to Rise Compared To The Rest Of The City. Baltimore Post-Examiner. baltimorepostexaminer.com/balti mores-heatwave-continues-to-rise-compared-to-the-rest-of-the-city/2019/10/08.
Ian Brehm, Business, Penn State World Campus
The city of Austin, the capital of Texas, has a population of approximately 995,000, making it the 11th most populous city in the United States (“List of…”, 2021). It is also one of the country’s fastest-growing cities. Austin’s population has grown nearly 26 percent since 2010 (34 percent in the metropolitan area).
The threat facing Austin is extreme heat. Because of its location in one of the hottest areas of the United States – the southern Great Plains region – Austin already experiences yearly heatwaves. Global warming is increasing the intensity of these heatwaves. The city has warmed by 4°F over the last 40 years, or one degree every ten years (Fitzsimmons, as cited in Buchele, 2019a). In 2019, Austin ranked ninth in the country for cities experiencing the largest increases in extreme heat days (Buchele, 2019b). According to data from the National Weather Service’s “heat index,” which combines temperature and humidity data to better measure how humans experience heat, Austin has historically averaged 108 days per year with a heat index of 90°F or higher. By midcentury (between 2036 and 2065), this will increase to at least 143 days, a one third increase. The results are much more concerning for extreme heat above 100°F, which has historically occurred 29 days per year. With some action to fight climate change, this will rise by midcentury to 82 days per year; without any action, it will be 95. Heat indices above 105°F have historically occurred only 5 days per year. With action, this will increase to 42 days by midcentury and 52 by late century (between 2070 and 2099). With no action, it will be 59 days by midcentury and 101 days by late. In other words, if no progress is made to reduce the effects of climate change, Austin residents will face over three months with a heat index above 105°F. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, without aggressive action to fight and mitigate climate change, Austin will begin facing an average of 2 days a year with heat indices above 127-136°F. By 2070-2099, this will rise to an average of 12 days per year. This heat is so extreme that it falls beyond what is measurable by the National Weather Service’s heat index scale (Dahl et al., 2019).
The effects of global warming are magnified by the urban heat island effect. This describes the phenomenon where manmade structures – buildings, roadways, etc. – typically made of concrete and asphalt absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat. Austin benefits from the presence of the Colorado River and significant tree cover – about 35 percent of the area on average (Thornton, 2020). Within the city, north, central, and south neighborhoods have larger concentrations of poorer neighborhoods and, with less tree cover, are the most vulnerable to extreme heat (Austin Area Sustainability Indicators, 2019).
One impact of extreme heat events is reduced power grid reliability. Hot weather simultaneously boosts energy demand and strains energy supply, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and the potential for infrastructure failure. The failure of the Texas grid last winter demonstrated its vulnerability; its separation from the two large grids that connect the rest of the country isolates Texas and only increases the potential for failure. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is concerned about this summer’s heat. In the most extreme scenario it modeled, with a severe heat wave coupled with failures in its major energy sources, over 2.8 million homes would be without electricity. This is when cooling is most necessary to sustain life (Douglas & Ferman, 2021). Just today, ERCOT released an electricity conservation alert due to plant outages (Falcon & DuPree, 2021).
Heatwaves unequally impact those with limited financial and social resources. Higher temperatures and associated air pollution, especially ozone, can cause discomfort, respiratory difficulties, heat cramps and exhaustion, heat stroke, and even heat-related deaths, particularly in sensitive populations such as children, older adults, and those with existing heart conditions (Hancock & Tee, 2019). Heatwaves also heat waterways via storm water runoff from hot surfaces and from direct sun exposure, harming aquatic life.
Strategies to deal with extreme heat events include providing cooling centers, offering free rides to air-conditioned areas, staffing a city helpline, providing free water for the homeless, and erecting shade structures in areas that lack tree cover. A proposed zoning amendment would boost tree coverage to 50 percent of the city (Thornton, 2020). However, it takes many years of growth for trees to provide significant coverage, and the trees themselves are subject to stress from heat. Texas should also work to increase its electrical grid reliability. The city has a policy to not disconnect electricity to those who cannot pay during periods of peak heat. To follow through with this promise, especially with more extreme heat and higher energy needs from a growing population, Texas must buttress its electricity generation in climate-friendly ways, such as by adding wind and especially solar generation capacity.
The long-term solution to this threat is to fight climate change. In September 2020, the city’s Office of Sustainability released its draft Climate Equity Plan. The plan would shift Austin to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. To achieve this, the plan calls for moving to 100 percent clean electricity generation, adopting all-electric vehicles, boosting public transit use, implementing new efficiency codes for buildings, supporting carbon-neutral agriculture, preserving more green spaces, and implementing green tariffs and other financial incentives to encourage climate-conscious choices (Dunning, 2020). This plan has attracted the attention of Texas Gas Service, which has used its influence to persuade policymakers to revise the draft (Holden et al., 2021). Officials with conflicting interests have helped the gas company’s cause and put the plan in jeopardy. However, even if this plan is implemented, success in fighting climate change requires broad, cooperative action.
Austin Area Sustainability Indicators. (2019). Climate and community resilience. www.austinindicators.org/project/climate-and-community-resilience/
Buchele, M. (2019a, July 17). The heat in Austin could outpace science’s ability to measure it by 2036. KUT. www.kut.org/energy-environment/2019-07-17/the-heat-in-austin-could-outpace-sciences-ability-to-measure-it-by-2036
Buchele, M. (2019b, August 22). Austin makes top 10 list of U.S. cities with the greatest increase in hot days. KUT. www.kut.org/energy-environment/2019-08-22/austin-makes-top-10- list-of-u-s-cities-with-the-greatest-increase-in-hot-days
Dahl, K., Spanger-Siegfried, E., Licker, R., Caldas, A., Cleetus, R., Udvardy, S., Declet-Barreto, J., & Worth, P. (2019, July 2). Killer heat in the United States: Climate choices and the future of dangerously hot days. Union of Concerned Scientists. www.ucsusa.org/resources/killer-heat-united-states-0
Douglas, E., & Ferman, M. (2021, April 15). Severe weather this summer could cause another Texas power crisis. The Texas Tribune. www.texastribune.org/2021/04/15/texas-ercot blackouts-summer-climate/
Dunning, S. (2020, September 4). The Office of Sustainability releases draft Climate Equity Plan. Austin Monitor. www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2020/09/the-office-of sustainability-releases-draft-climate-equity-plan/
Falcon, R., & DuPree, W. (2021, June 15). ERCOT conservation alert: Texans asked to reduce electric use through Friday. KXAN. www.kxan.com/news/texas/ercot-conservation alert-texans-asked-to-reduce-electric-use-on-monday/
Hancock, C., & Tee, M. (2019, April 17). Opinion: Texas’ next looming health crisis is climate change. Austin-American Statesman. www.statesman.com/story/opinion/columns/your voice/2021/04/28/texas-next-looming-health-crisis-climate-change/7381437002/
Holden, E., Ahmed, A., & Gibbons, B. (2021, March 1). A Texas city had a bold new climate plan – until a gas company got involved. The Guardian. www.theguardian.com/us news/2021/mar/01/a-texas-city-had-a-bold-new-climate-plan-until-a-gas-company-got involved
List of United States cities by population. (2021, June 5). In Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/w/ index.php?title=List_of_United_States_cities_by_population&oldid=1026952931 Thornton, R. (2020, February 24). Land use code to protect transit-oriented trees and increase canopy cover. Austin Monitor. www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2020/02/land-use-code to-protect-transit-oriented-trees-and-increase-canopy-cover/
Amelia Arthur, Pennsylvania State University
The last few summers, Boston, Massachusetts has experienced some of the worst heat it has ever had. Temperatures have been steadily increasing since industrial times and heatwaves have become increasingly intense. Since Boston is a city comprised of lots of cement and manmade structures and relatively few trees, minor changes in heat are felt with a lot more intensity by its residents. Different communities in Boston varied in temperature so some residents were affected significantly more than others. Temperatures in the Chinatown and Lower Roxbury communities soared over 105 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime (Abel, 2021).
Boston is expecting to see at least 40 days that exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit by 2030, and had their hottest year on record in 2020. As aforementioned, not all Bostonians are impacted equally from the jarring heatwaves. Within the city, communities of color, Native communities, low-income communities, and those with chronic illness are the most affected by the heat (Preparing for…, n.d.). These are also the areas with the least green space and most manmade structures, implementing more green spaces would ameliorate the effects of the heat. A major study reported that heat related deaths are expected to be more than 50 percent greater within the next few decades than they were the last few decades (Guo et al., 2018).
Unfortunately, as the spring and summer heat grows in intensity every year, Bostonians will be increasingly affected. Electrical sources will be overworked, which will result in power outages becoming more frequent. The little greenery that is already present will not be able to tolerate the intense sun and will be unable to provide canopy and shade to residents (Preparing for…, n.d.). Working with engineers and urban planners to provide more green spaces and increase the amount of greenery throughout the city, especially low-income areas, would provide much needed relief. In addition to this, updating older structures with renewable energy technology or more eco-friendly roofing and building materials would allow for less frequent power outages and hopefully be able to absorb more of the Sun’s heat. The beautiful city of Boston and its wonderful residents deserve better than the sweltering heat and it is up to officials to take the right steps to preserve the charm and history of the city before it is too late.
Guo, Y., et al. (2018, July 7). Quantifying Excess Deaths Related to Heatwaves under Climate Change Scenarios: A Multicountry Time Series Modelling Study. PLOS Medicine, 15(7), e1002629. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002629.
Abel, D. (2021, August 13). Climate Change Is Bringing Higher Heat to Boston, More so in Some Neighborhoods than Others. We Went to See for Ourselves. The Boston Globe. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/08/13/metro/climate-change-is-bringing-higher-heat-boston-more-so-some-neighborhoods-than-others-we-went-see-ourselves/.
Preparing for Heat. (2021, February 18). City of Boston.
Emma Cox, Earth Science and Climatology, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
Heat waves are one of the deadliest forms of extreme weather that humans can face. They are categorized by a high-pressure atmospheric system staying over a particular area for more than two days. These events can be amplified by the urban heat island effect as well as climate change because of increasing temperatures. City infrastructure absorbs excess heat from the sun, making inner cities warmer than surrounding areas. Rising global temperatures are set to increase the frequency of heat waves occurring, so this problem will only become more common in the future. South Atlanta, Georgia’s low-income communities have faced this issue for years, resulting in excessive death at the hands of these heat waves and other socioeconomic issues.
South Atlanta has been experiencing heat waves in larger amounts for repetitive periods of time, leading to many deaths in recent decades. These communities that experience a lot of the urban heat island effect during heat waves tend to not have access to air conditioning or shaded area outside because of a lack of resources. Low-income area residents also tend to have more underlying health conditions, like diabetes and cardiovascular issues, that can amplify their risk of experiencing some sort of heat sickness (Brink et al, 2021). Because of past and sustained racist housing practices like redlining, these areas tend to be primarily African American and other communities of color, which is the case for south Atlanta. What’s worse is that once a heat wave begins in these communities, the power grids tend to fail because of excess use of air conditioning (Worley, 2021).
Like other cities around the country, Atlanta is adapting. The city has a total of five cooling centers which provide air conditioning to those who need it, though some consider this inefficient for the growing population (Worley, 2021) as well as them not being open at night (Brink et al, 2021). Others want to allocate areas for planting greenery like trees to provide shade as well as reflecting some of the sunlight back to space (Brink et al, 2021). Forests are actually a large part of Atlanta’s image, so increasing the number of trees should be doable as long as resources are allocated to preserving them (Worley, 2021).
Brink, H. & Dam, D.V. (2021, October 7). ‘Hotlanta’ is even more sweltering in these neighborhoods due to a racist 20th-century policy. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/18/weather/extreme-urban-heat-environmental-racism-climate/index.html
Worley, S. (2021, July 29). Climate change is making the whole city hotter – but rising temps may put some Atlantans in more danger than others. Atlanta Magazine. https://www.atlantamagazine.com/news-culture-articles/climate-change-is-making-the whole-city-hotter-but-rising-temps-may-put-some-atlantans-in-more-danger-than-others/
Jenny MacDougall-Jeffery, Digital Multimedia Design, World Campus
The Philippines are at extreme risk from typhoons, rising sea levels and heatwaves. Cotabato City in the Philippines has a trifecta of climate related risks, but one of the more concerning risks is rising temperatures. Cotabato is a coastal city, off the western Pacific Ocean with a population of 325,079 people. It is also one of the few coastal areas in the Philippines expected to be deleteriously affected by climate change due to its positioning. 70 percent of the city is below sea level, and with sea levels continuing to rise, they could not only be impacted by flooding, but also infectious diseases. As the climate continues to heat up, many factors come into play: heat-related mortality, water scarcity, cyanobacteria in the water, and mosquitos traveling outside of their habitat. Cyanobacteria causes red tide, also known as algae blooms, which puts the Cotabato people at risk of cholera (Sarmiento, 2012). Increased exposure to Mosquitos can lead to malaria, dengue fever, and west Nile virus. Heatwaves not only impact health, but productivity of labor, agricultural yield and the overall viability of the ecosystem.
Currently, the climate trend for the Philippines in general, and Cotabato City specifically, shows a significant increase in the number of warm days. Warming over the past 17 years has been about 0.75 degrees C. If nothing changes, and Cotabato (as well as the greater whole of the Philippines) sticks to business as usual, the temperature is projected to increase by 3.1 degrees C by 2090 (Climate Risk…, 2021). There is also the potential for year-long heatwaves by 2050 (Climate Risk…, 2021). The coastal city of Cotabato is heavily reliant on coastal and marine resources, and heatwaves can make this a vulnerable situation for them. Solutions for the heatwave aren’t plentiful or easy. It’s necessary that the Philippines maintains a position in the Paris Agreement and have access to the Green Climate Fund. It’s also important for coastal cities like Cotabato to get increased resources for human health, nutrition, and medicine to stave off high endemic diseases like dengue. Locally, planting more trees and painting roofs and sidewalks to reflect more heat would help. Lastly, educating the community about the risks involved with heatwaves and what it could mean for their livelihood is equally important.
Sarmiento, B. S. (2012, October 29). Region 12 high-risk to climate change impact. MindaNews. https://www.mindanews.com/environment/2012/04/region 12-high-risk-to-climate-change-impact/.
Climate Risk Country Profile: China. (2021). The World Bank Group and the Asian Development Bank. https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/climate-risk-country-profile-china.pdf.
David Marcial, Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Penn State University
Heat waves have become increasingly severe across the globe, including in Delhi, India, where in 2019, a new record high temperature was set for the month of June at 118 °F (Patel, n.d.). Cities in India have always dealt with excessive heat, but climate change is making that heat unbearable. 11 of India’s 15 warmest years have occurred since 2004 (Patel, n.d.), and over 6,000 individuals across the country have died from heat-related illnesses since 2010 (Mashal, 2019).
Delhi is extremely vulnerable to climate-induced warming for a variety of reasons. For one, Delhi experiences exceptionally hot temperatures, even without considering climate change (Frayer, 2019). Additionally, Delhi is one of the most populous cities in the world, with current estimates for its population at around 30 million (Delhi, India…, n.d.).
Delhi’s vulnerability is further exposed when taken in the context of India as a whole, where poverty abounds and few resources exist at the individual level to fend off natural disasters. Only 6% of Indian households have air conditioning, and in many slums, government truckloads deliver the only source of available water. Add to this the fact that India is warming at a faster pace than the rest of the world. To illustrate this, in India, average temperatures rose by 1.2 °C during the 20th Century, while the global average increase in temperature across the same time period was 0.85 °C (Frayer, 2019).
Officials have taken note of the deadly heat waves, and initiatives have been implemented to mitigate the effects of the problem. At the federal level, the Indian government now encourages employers to limit and shift hours for workers during extreme heat waves (Mashal, 2019). In New Delhi, city leaders have proposed planting one million trees and changing the public transportation system to run on natural gas. Perhaps the greatest strides forward will come with an improving economy. As more Indian families climb into the middle class, they will be able to afford life-saving resources such as air conditioning. However, air conditioning is energy-intensive, providing temporary comfort for those fortunate enough to have access, but contributing to further fossil fuel emissions and planetary warming (Frayer, 2019).
Unfortunately, the heat in Delhi is only expected to become more severe in the coming decades. Some scientists have even proposed that some south Asian cities will become so hot and humid that they will be uninhabitable by 2100 (Mashal, 2019). More individuals will be exposed to the associated risks of heat stroke and illness as people migrate to Delhi in search of work, money, and opportunity (Frayer, 2019).
Frayer, L. (2019, July 2). Temps have topped 120 in India. How are they coping with the heat wave? NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/07/02/730378851/temps-have-topped-120-in-india-how-are-they-coping-with-the-heat-wave
Delhi, India metro area population 1950-2021. (n.d.) Macrotrends. https://www.macrotrends.net/cities/21228/delhi/population
Mashal, M. (2019, June 13). Indian heat wave, soaring up to 123 degrees, has killed at least 36. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/13/world/asia/india-heat-wave deaths.html?
Patel, K. (n.d.). Heatwave in India. NASA Earth Observatory. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145167/heatwave-in-india
Katelyn Ellery, Advertising and Psychology, Penn State University
The city of Athens, Greece is known for two things: its historic rivalry with Sparta, and heatwaves. Along from being the hottest capital in Europe, an August heatwave broke records for the hottest day, with temperatures over 115ºF. The National Observatory of Athens shows that from the end of the 1800s through the first decade of the 1900s, there were less than 20 days when the temperature passed 99ºF. Up through the 1980s, there were fewer than 50 days on record when the temperature surpassed that threshold. By 2016, that number had increased to 120 dangerously hot days. The location of Athens in the Mediterranean has a big impact on the climate, but the layout of the city is less than ideal and is the main reason for these dangerously high temperatures. In Athens, buildings are packed extremely close together with very little greenery to absorb heat. The sidewalks, roads, and roofs are made of dark cement that traps heat all throughout the crowded city, even during the night. Current predictions estimate that over the next 30 years, temperatures may increase an average of 2-3ºC (~35-37ºF) depending on the time of year. This would have devastating effects on the health of Athens’s residents through heat stoke and exhaustion, the economy since tourism would likely decrease significantly, and the ecosystems. To try to get ahead of these inevitable effects of climate change, Athens appointed Eleni Myrivili into the position of “Chief Heat Officer” In July of 2021. Since July, Myrivili has worked with scientists and other European government officials to set safety precautions in place for these heatwaves, such as naming them, similar to hurricanes. By doing this, she hopes to set a standard of emergency measures and make it easier for news channels to communicate to Athens’s many residents what they need to do to prepare. Myrivili has also taken measures to install air conditioning in more homes and work with electricians to make centers with air conditioning all throughout the city so people can have a place to cool down. Myrivili hopes to install solar panels and gardens on rooftops throughout Athens and plant thousands of trees over the next decade to absorb rainwater and provide shade. Myrivili predicts that if action is not taken immediately, the city would turn into an island of heat with empty buildings and homes.
Calma, J. (2021, August 23). In Greece, heatwaves are so bad officials are considering giving them names. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2021/8/23/22637914/greece-heatwaves-names
Emmanouilidou, L. (2021, August 5). Athens’ first-ever chief heat officer says historic heat wave feels ominous, like a ‘prequel’ of the city’s future. The World from PRX. https://theworld.org/stories/2021-08-05/i-m-very-worried-about-future-city-amid-historic-heat-wave athens-first-ever
Horowitz, J. (2021, October 29). Athens is only getting hotter. Its new ‘chief heat officer’ hopes to cool it down. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/21/world/europe/athens-is-only-getting-hotter-its-new-chief-heat officer-hopes-to-cool-it-down.html?partner=slack&smid=sl-share
Sengupta, S. (2020, August 7). This is inequality at the boiling point. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/08/06/climate/climate-change inequality-heat.html
Smith, H. (2021, May 10). The next decade will be all about heat: Can Athens head off climate crisis? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/10/heat athens-climate-crisis-mayor
Anton Fatula, Environmental Resource Management, Pennsylvania State Universit
Climate change, as we understand it, is a largely physical process within the Earth system. Local and large scale geologic, oceanic, and atmospheric actors interact with one-another to regulate our climate system. At this scale, it is easy to consider how this will affect continental wind patterns and global sea level rise, but sometimes overlooked are the implications these shifts can have on microscopic organisms. Enter Woreta, Ethiopia.
Woreta is a city in the mountainous North Eastern corner of Ethiopia. It has a population of about 33,200 residents (according to a 2015 census) and is home to the Wereta College of Agriculture, which hosts about 200 students at any given time. Woreta was established as being a stop along the Gondar-Boso trade route, and is the subject of a recent study published in the BMC Public Health journal because of a very important geographic feature: it sits at the northernmost part of Earth’s tropical zone, making the population a potential signal for how climate change can affect the spread of vector-borne infectious disease, more specifically, Malaria.
A study in the journal Nature linked vector-borne disease(VBD) rates to temperature as showing a generally positive relationship. As you increase temperature (within reasonable limits related to biological functions), VBD abundance, survival, feeding, and development of pathogens within the vector will also increase (Rocklov et al. 2020). UN reports acknowledge this poses a great threat to the everlasting battle against malaria, a battle in which the world (and Woreta) might have finally been winning. There were 102,520 “suspected cases” of malaria reported to the Woreta health center between the years 2005 and 2012 and trends in these data show that while prevalence was lower overall by the year 2012, there were no consistent trends of reduction that substantiated the claim the Woreta is out of the woods (Alelign et al. 2018). Conversely, data seems to point toward a future where an increase in global temperatures will lead to an expansion of the tropical zone that would boost VBD activity and skyrocket malaria rates for Woreta and similar communities alike.
Given that much of the research is relatively new, there is not much in the way of solutions. Further research is ultimately the answer. Advancements in malaria medication are essential to its eradication; however, shifts to Earth’s major biomes could enable the disease to spread at a rate that would outpace scientific advancement. Therefore, keeping our global thermometer below a 1.5°C temperature increase is also crucial in avoiding the aforementioned consequences.
Alelign, A., Tekeste, Z. & Petros, B. (2018). Prevalence of malaria in Woreta town, Amhara region, Northwest Ethiopia over eight years. BMC Public Health, 18, 990. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-5913-8
Fernando, S.D. (2020). Climate Change and Malaria – A Complex Relationship. UN Chronicle. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/climate-change-and-malaria-complex-relationship
Rocklöv, J., Dubrow, R. (2020). Climate change: an enduring challenge for vector-borne disease prevention and control. Nat Immunol, 21, 479–483. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41590-020- 0648-y
Various Contributors. (2022). Population Statistics in Maps and Charts. Africa – Regions, Major Cities & Towns. http://www.citypopulation.de/Ethiopia.html
Various Contributors. (2021). CDC – Malaria – about malaria – FAQs. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/faqs.html
Jason Langland, Architectural Engineering, Penn State University
The effects of rising temperatures across the globe will not be felt in equal magnitude; currently the warming in the Middle East and South Asia is almost twice that of other regions. From 1981 to 2010, parts of Africa, Australia, and Pakistan have had an increase in average humidity by approximately 2 grams per kilogram, with projected increases in the coming decades. Jacobabad, with a population of over 200,000 people, is one of two cities to have officially recorded a temperature and moisture threshold hotter than the human body can handle. In hot and dry climates, heat can be mitigated through sweating; the human body can handle (albeit not comfortably) temperatures above 120°F (49°C) in these arid regions. However, in coastal regions, the relative humidity can become so high that sweat cannot be evaporated off the body for cooling. This effect can be seen at as low as 95°F (35°C) at 100% relative humidity.
Jacobabad first hit the 95°F wet bulb in July 1987 and has passed that threshold many times since. More recently in June of 2021, the city hit a record temperature of 127°F (52.8°C). This threat is especially important largely due to two factors. Firstly, warm and humid air is blown into the Sindh Valley where Jacobabad is located. This is an almost endless supply of water vapor to an area which relies heavily on farming and hard labor, and already has hot days due its location on the Tropic of Cancer. The second factor increasing the danger of this climate is the lack of air conditioning. Few of Jacobabad’s 200,000 residents have a form of air conditioning, mostly because it is a poor region. Both factors present a clear picture of solutions to the threat of high wet bulb temperatures. For the wealthy in the region, some may choose to spend the hottest months in a cooler region or purchase a solar panel to power an air conditioner or fans. The poorer people in the region can buy cheap batteries to power their fans or purchase ice blocks. Possibly the best solution for the region, while unlikely, is to coordinate with the wealthy, oil rich nations across the Caspian Sea to import air conditioning supplies to those who need it most. Ultimately, the area will sadly end up being uninhabitable.
Farmer, B. (2021, June 28). Hotter than the human body can handle: Pakistan city broils in world’s highest temperatures. The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/climate-and-people/hotter-human-body-can-handle-pakistan-city-broils-worlds-highest/
Hergersberg, P. (n.d.). Hot Air in the Orient. Max Planck Research. https://www.mpg.de/10856695/W004_Environment_climate_062-069.pdf
Daniel Cheng, Penn State University
The city I chose for my capstone project is London, United Kingdom. In July 2022, London set a new record of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (Landler, 2022). The heatwave is extremely abnormal for London due to its higher latitude and is more known for its cooler climate year round. The extreme heat put several demographics at risk, at which point the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, declared the heatwave a “major incident” to assist those with overstretched resources. (Landler, 2022). In London, most homes and businesses do not have air conditioning. Those most at risk, such as the elderly over 75, people who live in care homes, those suffering from serious illnesses like heart and lung conditions, mental health conditions, and more, babies and children, pets, and those who live on the top floor of apartments. (London City Hall, 2022)
Furthermore, the heat waves in London will continue to be more frequent as a result of climate change without change. London is forecasted to be as hot as Barcelona by 2050 (Arthur, 2022). If heat waves were similarly experienced in July 2022, London would see increased fires and potential droughts in its canals, drinking water, and deaths. Professor Nigel Arnell from the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading suggests new building regulations prevent overheating and insulate against both hot and cold weather. However, it will take years for the homes to be up to the new code. (Arthur, 2022)
All-in-all, London’s most recent heatwave is an example of how climate change will no longer happen in the future but rather in the present. The clear solution for the city is to reduce its carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. London already has a toll for those who want to drive into the center of the city to reduce the amount of pollution.
Landler, M. (2022, July 19). Europe’s heat wave shatters British records and drives wildfires. The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from
Coping with hot weather in London. London City Hall. (2022, November 22). Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://www.london.gov.uk/programmes
Arthur, A. (2022, July 12). UK heatwave: Are these searing temperatures the future of Summers in the UK? UK heatwave: Are searing temperatures the future of summers in the UK? | BBC Science Focus Magazine. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://www.sciencefocus.com/news/uk-heatwave-are-these-searing-temperatures-the future-of-summers-in-the-uk/
Maxwell Cliff, Penn State University
In this Communities in Crisis vignette, we focus on a community that consistently weathers record-breaking temperatures in Phoenix Arizona. Located in Maricopa County, Phoenix is one of the largest cities in the United States, home to 1.6 million residents, and one of the hottest cities in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020). In 2020 Phoenix went 145 days where temperatures were above 100° F, a record breaker (National Weather Service, n.d.). With record heat, Maricopa County had an estimated 450 heat fatalities in 2022; a drastic difference from the 64 deaths recorded in 2014 (Loewe, 2023). However, an interesting statistic is that in a 2021 analysis of indoor heat deaths, Maricopa County discovered that 84% of homes had an air conditioner (AC) present. They also discovered that 30% of respondents in a resident survey cannot use their air conditioning systems, citing the cost of bills or the cost of repairs (Maricopa County Department of Public Health, 2016). Interestingly, U.S. Census data shows that nearly 22% of Phoenix residents lived below the poverty line. The economic externalities of climate change-induced heatwaves pose the largest threat to Phoenix’s residents. The threat exposes the most vulnerable to heat injuries and potential fatalities due to the inequality of access to cooling systems for the community’s poorest versus economically established residents. As climate change continues and heatwaves get longer and hotter, more deaths are forecasted for Maricopa County. The best mitigation to this threat is for local government programs to increase the level of access to cooling systems for Phoenix’s economically vulnerable residents. Furthermore, Phoenix should consider designing a solution for power companies to bring the prices of electricity down to increase the level of access for residents.
Baker, T., & Berisha, V. (n.d.). 2021 Heat Deaths [Slide show]. Maricopa County Department of Public Health. https://www.maricopa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/74257/Final-2021- Heat-Deaths
Loewe, E. (2023, February 13). Can Cities Eliminate Heat-Related Deaths? Phoenix Is Trying. Next City. from https://nextcity.org/urbanist-news/can-cities-eliminate-heat-related-deaths-phoenix-is-trying
Maricopa County Department of Public Health. (2016). ASSESSING THE COOLING NEEDS OF HOMEBOUND INDIVIDUALS IN MARICOPA COUNTY, 2016. In www.maricopa.gov.
National Weather Service. (n.d.). Historical Extreme Temperatures in Phoenix and Yuma. https://www.weather.gov/psr/ExtremeTemps
Andrew Saldana, Penn State University
A city that is familiar with heatwaves is Houston, an area where they typically experience hot summers and has seen no improvement within the past few decades. The reason why they are so vulnerable is that they are in the central U.S. and due to the heat island effect. The heat island effect happens in large cities where the buildings enhance the heat and make temperatures higher than they should be. Common in Houston as it is one of Texas’s major cities. Houston is known to have the fourth most significant heat island effect in the United States, and as mentioned above, climate change is making it worse. By 2030, they should expect about one-fifth of its year with a temperature over ninety-five degrees. This is shocking because, in the 2010s, they saw about 478 days over ninety-five degrees and this value will nearly double as we approach the 2030s. Heat waves will become more common in Houston, and extreme heat has the highest death numbers for severe weather. This could be shocking to some that extreme heat is the number one cause of death but that’s because young children, the elderly, and the poor are sensitive to high temperatures. Even though we can’t prevent temperatures to increase within the Houston metro area, they are taking action to minimize this. Greenhouse gases are the cause of climate change, and currently, Houston has the largest numbers of power produced from renewable sources. The average percentage for the nation is about twelve percent while the state of Texas itself is at twenty-three percent. The city of Houston by far doing the most to prevent from not using fossil fuels which spill out a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as well as planting many trees by 2030.
Climate Change and Renewable Energy. (n.d.). Understanding Houston.
Diaz, G. (2022, January 11). Planting the Right Trees Can Help with Climate Change. Houstonia Magazine. https://www.houstoniamag.com/news-and-city life/2022/01/houston-trees-climate-change-new-study.
Sarah Berholtz, Penn State University
Climate change is most commonly associated with heat waves, and they are undoubtedly a prominent resulting force, seeing as the Earth’s surface temperature is warming. Towns that already experience some of the world’s hottest temperatures are inevitably seeing growing, uncharted, temperatures. When it comes to the list of most vulnerable countries to climate change, Iraq ranks fifth. Baghdad, Iraq, has a hot desert climate and is considered to be the hottest city in the world. Heat waves are catastrophic, especially in an already sweltering climate. In August of 2022, an extreme heat wave caused a power grid shutdown in Baghdad. This left residents to battle 125-degree temperatures for two long days without power, leaving them without air conditioning. Many attempted to keep cool by driving around in their personal cars equipped with air conditioning and running personal backup generators. Shade is also very limited which poses a higher risk, especially to those working outside in the heat such as vendors, traffic police, and construction workers. As a result, hospitals are overfilled with cases of breathing difficulty and even heat stroke in some instances. In such extreme temperatures, concrete can become very dangerous as the heat is trapped within, burning through even the soles of shoes. This is part of the “urban heat island” effect, which also aids in the effects of climate change in such hot climates. With a government that is bitterly fighting to regain shape after the recent war, major governmental spending is on hold and no budgets have been passed to aid in this growing problem. Without this crucial funding, the community doesn’t have hope in sight, and they’re forced to contribute to the problem. This will inevitably result in accelerated effects of climate change-fueled heat waves, forcing the residents of Baghdad to suffer through and attempt to survive this catastrophic heat. The city will also need to mitigate the heat island effect by painting roofs lighter colors and making cooling centers for vulnerable people.
Beaubien, J. (2022, March 10). Why Baghdad Will Be One of the Cities Hardest Hit by Global Warming. NPR.
Loveluck, L., & Salim, M. (2022, August 7). Iraq Broils in Dangerous 120-Degree Heat as Power Grid Shuts Down. The Washington Post.
Danielle Dedeaux, Penn State University
The community I chose to focus on for this project was the city of Baltimore, Maryland, located in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the United States. Baltimore is a major seaport on the East Coast and the biggest city in Maryland while acting as home for over 575,000 residents. With its central location on the east coast and its historical harbor, Baltimore plays an important role in both America’s past and present.
So, when it comes to the threats posed by climate change to Baltimore, excessive heat and heatwaves is a problem that often comes to mind. An article published by MSN states that the Mid-Atlantic Baltimore weather could start to feel deep south Mississippi’s weather by 2080. The closest borders of Maryland and Mississippi are separated just over 550 miles so this will be a drastic change from what Baltimore’s current climate is. And for people who aren’t used to or prepared for that heat- that can pose a serious problem.
Speaking of heat, cities worldwide experience the Urban Heat Island effect, and Baltimore, Maryland, is no different. Essentially, the Urban Heat islands effect happens when the albedo, or the ability for something to reflect sunlight, of an urbanized area is extremely low. This can happen because of city-planning practices like excessively dark pavements and rooftops with a lack of gardens and vegetated areas to prevent every surface from being dark. And so, a low albedo and rising global temperatures mean that Baltimore faces more risks than surrounding suburban or rural areas of Maryland. An article published on Bloomberg and written by Linda Poon called states that urbanized areas may feel an average of about nine degrees hotter than nonurbanized, nearby locations. So, while everyone may feel some of the effects of a rise in global temperatures, cities like Baltimore will feel it way more. And to make matters worse, Baltimore has a higher-than-average poverty rate compared to other cities in the US according to an article by Alan Berube and Brad McDearman and published by The Brookings Institute. That means that many people in Baltimore have and will continue to have difficulty affording things like air conditioning to help with extreme heat and heat waves as they become progressively worse. At the same time, the poverty rates show that the most vulnerable might not be able to afford to move to less heat-affected areas.
One solution to this problem includes better city planning for Baltimore. By adding more things like gardens and tree canopies throughout the city while painting over dark roads and rooftops with slightly lighter colors than the already dark asphalt and pavement, we can raise Baltimore’s overall albedo while reducing the Urban Heat Island effect. By doing so, we can help the residents of Baltimore survive extreme heat events and give them better chances of survival when facing our rising global temperatures. There also needs to be funds provided to low-income persons to buy ACs and have cooling centers.
Berube, A. & McDearman, B. (2016, August 3). Good Fortune, Dire Poverty, and Inequality in Baltimore: An American Story. The Avenue. Brookings.
Distance from Maryland to Mississippi. (n.d.). Maryland to Mississippi Distance. State Distance. https://statedistance.com/from-maryland-to-mississippi.
Poon, L. (2021, July 14). In Baltimore, the Costs of Urban Heat Can Add Up. The High Price of Losing the War Against Urban Heat. Bloomberg.
Urban Heat Island Sensors: Baltimore Office of Sustainability. (2017, February 20). Baltimore Office of Sustainability. City of Baltimore: Department of Planning. https://www.baltimoresustainability.org/urban-heat-island-sensors/.
What Could Climate Change Mean For Baltimore And Maryland? (2021). MSN. https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/what-could-climate-change-mean-for Baltimore-and-Maryland/ar-AAQfz8X.
What You Can Do to Reduce Heat Islands. (2022, July 21). Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/heatislands/what-you-can-do-reduce-heat-islands.
Connor Ryan, Penn State University
In America, the southwest has and is projected to be hit the most by global warming, and heat waves pose a serious threat to communities located in this area of the country. In specific, Phoenix, a large city in Arizona, has experienced record-setting heatwaves in recent years, with 130 homeless casualties from heat throughout 2021, and 172 in 2020, according to the Public Health Department of Maricopa County. Socially vulnerable and underdeveloped communities within Phoenix are especially impacted by heat waves, as not every household has access to air conditioning and water. This infrastructural disparity makes living conditions uncomfortable for a large population of people throughout Phoenix, but also makes workplace conditions dangerous and stretches support resources thin. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on page 39 of “Climate Change and Social Vulnerability in the United States”, 2 degrees C of global warming will cause a loss of approximately 30-40 hours of work per worker annually due to climate change in the area of Phoenix, and upwards of 84 hours annually with 4 degrees C of global warming. These impacts are devastating to the community and unfortunately are only projected to worsen as climate change and global warming grow in severity. Many efforts have been made already to provide support for those affected by Phoenix’s heat waves, with one example being the funding of a public office for heat response and mitigation for the city of Phoenix. Another effort has been the creation and implementation of hyper-local heat plans that significantly reduce the average temperature of commonly populated areas such as bus stops and walkways. Hopefully, with enough attention and change to our current contribution to global warming and climate change, communities such as Phoenix, Arizona will become better adapted to and more capable of dealing with heatwaves in the future, and this community will be a safer place for everyone to live.
Loomis, B. (2021, October 7). Phoenix names a heat officer, with a goal of easing the risk of rising temperatures. AZ Central. https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-environment/2021/10/07/phoenix-hires-heat-officer-cool-city-ever-warming-future/6029086001/
Muyskens, J., Ba Tran, A., Phillips, A., Ducroquet, S., & Ahmed, N. (2022). More dangerous heat waves are on the way: See the impact by Zip code. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/interactive/2022/extreme-heat-risk-map-us/.
EPA. 2021. Climate Change and Social Vulnerability in the United States: A Focus on Six Impacts. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA 430-R-21-003. www.epa.gov/cira/social-vulnerability-report.
Salgado, L. (2022, July 27). Heat wave takes a toll on Arizona homeless. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/heat-wave-takes-toll-arizona-homeless-2022-07-27/
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Brenda Paull, Penn State University
Since the early days of climate change research, more attention has been brought to climate effects such as drought and sea level rise over the ‘global warming’ that was publicized in its early days. Still, a sharp rise of 1.1C in average temperatures has already occurred globally and 2.2C is expected by the end of the century as reported by the 2022 IPCC Report. Even more concerning, the warming temperatures will not affect all places equally: some areas will experience far more significant warming and others may not be affected at all. Unfortunately for the people of Al Jahra, Kuwait, their city is one of those that may become uninhabitable hot due to scorching temperatures by 2050.
Kuwait is already one of the hottest countries in the world. Located in a desert, temperatures can rise to 120F regularly, causing the death of many migrant workers, animals, and disadvantaged populations (Emission Reductions). Yet, though the highest temperature ever seen was recorded in Kuwait, the Middle East’s temperatures are still projected to rise 9F by 2100 (Eastern Mediterranean). This is double the rate of the global average and, if temperatures regularly exceed 130F by the end of the century. Al Jahra, like the rest of Kuwait, will become unlivable and its wealthy population will find themselves as climate refugees or at severe risk of dying from heat-related illness. Additionally, though the primary industry in Kuwait is oil, Al Jahra mostly produces fruits and vegetables whose production will also be severely impacted by the rise in heat.
Though Kuwait is the fifth richest country on the planet, it will still be one of the hardest impacted by climate change. The government of Kuwait’s plan to reduce fossil fuel emissions from its oil industry is extremely limited and less than a quarter of what the Paris Agreement hoped for has been pledged (Emission Reductions). Moreover, the people, because of their wealth, are used to an extravagant lifestyle that places them among the highest carbon emitters in the world. Though Kuwait could easily reduce its oil production and per capita emissions, the people of Kuwait, and Al Jahra, are unwilling to make the change that would save their lives.
Climate Change and Health in Kuwait. (2022, June 4). Harvard. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/c change/news/climate-change-and-health-in-Kuwait/
Eastern Mediterranean Middle East Warming Almost Twice as Fast as Global Average Report Finds (2022, September 6). PBS News Hour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/eastern Mediterranean-middle-east-warming-almost-twice-as-fast-as-global-average-report-finds
Emission Reductions Stall as Global Heating Makes Kuwait Unlivable. (2022, February 13). The Energy Mix. https://www.theenergymix.com/2022/02/13/emission-reductions-stall-as global-heating-makes-kuwait-unlivable/