Only a few U.S. cities are focusing on heat mitigation as rising temperatures make urban centers less livable, Axios reported Tuesday.
Experts say that many cities lack the budget or political support to tackle the hotness problem sufficiently as high temperature contributed to such events as last year's Pacific Northwest heat wave in which more than an estimated 1,400 died, Axios reported.
"There's a huge number of small- and mid-sized cities that really don't have anybody thinking about sustainability and climate in a fully comprehensive or truly integrated way," Rushad Nanavatty, managing director of RMI, a clean energy nonprofit, told Axios.
Cities have been warming at twice the global average because of the "urban heat island" effect — basically, buildings and pavement trapping heat inside the area.
"In areas with higher rates of poverty, temperatures can be as much as 4 degrees Celsius, or 7 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer during the summer months when compared with richer neighborhoods," NPR reported, citing a 2021 study.
Nanavatty told Axios that a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) urban heat mitigation handbook found a "vast gap between the stated ambition and what was actually happening on the ground."
"We haven't gotten to a point — and this is what we're working on — where climate logic is fully embedded into a city's operations," said Nanavatty, one of the handbook's authors.
Miami/Dade County, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, though, have established "chief heat officers," and cities have been preparing for this summer's heat by emphasizing cooling methods other than air conditioning, which is energy-and-emissions intensive.
Those methods include:
- Installation of cooling and misting centers and hydration stations, and planting trees for extra shade.
- Experimenting with high-tech solutions like sealants and reflective coatings for sidewalks, streets, and rooftops.
- Updating building codes with green criteria and issuing "cool roof" mandates.
Phoenix has instituted a "Cool Pavement Program," in which a gray coating painted on streets reduced roadway temperatures by 10.5 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Scientific American.
The Arizona Republic reported the city aimed to build 100 "Cool Corridors" by 2030 "in shade-starved zones with high pedestrian traffic."
"This is life and death infrastructure for cities," Jad Daley, CEO of American Forests, told the Republic. "We ought to be investing in it, as a country, like it matters."
Axios reported that low-income people tend to suffer the most in urban areas affected by intense heat because they're more likely to lack air conditioning, work outdoors, and live near industrial facilities.
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