NewsOperation Safe Roads


New study shows economic impact of heat on community's health and roadways

Community inaction could cost billions of dollars
Phoenix street
Posted at 4:34 AM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 08:46:55-05

PHOENIX — Will residents and leaders step up if they know just how much inaction costs? Some new climate research hopes to put things into perspective for the community with dollar signs.

"We know it's the hottest large metro area in the country," said Diana Bermudez. She is with the Arizona Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, who worked with AECOM, an engineering firm, and an advisory panel to conduct new research on the economic impact of Phoenix's excessively hot days.

In Phoenix, the city doesn't really have seasons. Many track the time of year based on the changing of the license plates, rather than the changing of the leaves.

"Population in Maricopa County has been growing significantly for the last several decades and the county is only predicted to continue to grow," said Anne DeBoer with AECOM.

DeBoer looked at statistics from multiple areas, including heat-related illness and deaths, labor productivity, energy demand, and roadway infrastructure.

"You've probably driven on roads that are... sort of deformed," explained ASU Associate Professor Mac McCullough, who served on the advisory panel. "They get sort of rutted out because the surface of the road just gets so hot and eventually, we have to fix that and that's not free to fix. Someone has to pay to fix it."

The research generated two different possible outcomes that could occur if the community does nothing as temperatures climb. They found it would cost between $1.9 billion and $2.3 billion by 2050.

As for solutions, researchers believe there is a more cost-effective and beneficial alternative. That includes 100% cool roofs, which are designed to reflect more sunlight off of them, in the Phoenix metro area by 2050. Plus, they are looking to have 25% of the area covered by tree canopies. The cost to do this is estimated to be $5.5 billion, but experts say it could save more than $23 billion.

To view the full report, click here.