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What can Arizona do to counter climate change?

Posted at 6:36 PM, Nov 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-27 06:48:36-05

We all know the Valley can get hot. That's nothing new, but there is a new plan to figure out how to combat the urban "heat island." 

A "heat island" is when a metro area is a lot warmer than the rural areas surrounding it because of human activity.

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Through a three-year, $3-million grant, Maricopa County is teaming up with Arizona State University to figure out how to reduce the rising temperatures. 

"I think it's trying to get to the root cause of why we're seeing certain things happen the way they're happening," said Steve Chucri, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman. 

Data from ASU shows over the last few decades, the average daytime temperatures in the core of Maricopa County have increased four degrees. The average nighttime low has jumped 17 degrees.

Compare that to temperatures in Casa Grande -- the daytime temps have stayed flat while the average low is inching up just six degrees.

"I believe if you look at climate change and these types of things, it's going to mean 20 different things to 20 different people," said Chucri, "What we're really trying to find out here - why is this occurring?"

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The City of Phoenix is also trying to lower urban heat and lower its carbon emissions. Mark Hartman is the city's chief sustainability officer. He says, just a few years ago, Phoenix didn't really have a plan.

"If you don't know where you're going then any road will take you there," said Hartman, emphasizing the importance of having a plan. 

Today Hartman says the city is on the right road to making a difference by lowering its greenhouse gases and adding more shade by planting trees

Since 2012, the city has lowered its greenhouse gases by 10 percent. The city hopes to increase the number to 30 percent by 2025.

As for adding shade, right now there are about 92,000 trees on the city's public land and right of ways. They want to double that number by 2030.

"We find 92 percent of people will park further away to park in the shade," said Hartman. "Most people would say I'd walk a lot more often and bike a lot more often and not take my car if there was a shaded pathway to where I can shop."

Phoenix has also joined more than 7,000 cities around the world committed to reducing its carbon footprint.