Via Faye Bowers of the Christian Science Monitor, the city of Phoenix-- home of record heat at the moment and throughout much of the summer-- is experiencing a rapid "urban heat-island effect" with direct bearing on efforts to combat broader climate change through better planning:
"Every time you use that mechanical air conditioner, you're throwing hot air back into the environment," says Jay Golden, an expert on urban climate and energy at Arizona State University in Tempe. "It's not only the sun and the pavement, but we're generating more heat because of human adaptation." And that's where global warming comes in: The hotter it is, the more we need to cool off; and the more we try to cool off – with air conditioning, for instance – the more heat-trapping greenhouse gases and "waste energy" we create, feeding both phenomena.
The good news about these rises in temperatures, if there is any, Golden says, is that local governments are beginning to pay attention to how they design cities, how closely they space houses, and how much forestry and agriculture they plan.
In other words, as dynamic cities like Phoenix start schvitzing more and realizing the connection between climate and planning, demand for smart and sustainable solutions is rising. And state and local officials are starting to respond in creative ways.
Arizona isn't the only place this is going on. Bowers' colleague Brad Knickerbocker, in an insightful round-up of the week's major climate news, notes the ties that bind scorching temperatures and rapid growth to the recent announcement of the Western Regional Climate Initiative (though to be fair to our own reporting and analytical skills, we made that connection earlier this week!). Meanwhile California, home to the anti-sprawl efforts out of Jerry Brown's office that Knickerbocker recognizes as part of the mix, also just so happens to have its current power system nearly overloaded by heat-related demand.