Sustainable Phoenix

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Will we the Valley be too hot by 2050?

It happens at least once every year: The Valley of the Sun gets dragged by various media outlets for being too, well, sunny. Headlines declare Phoenix the world’s least sustainable city and claim it “will be almost unlivable by 2050” (nice, Vice) due to climate change. The latest blow came in March from The Guardian, which ran an article bemoaning Phoenix’s upward trajectory – more and more people keep moving here, making us the fifth largest city in America – despite a 21-year-long drought and a grave lack of water. Of course, a lot of the issues laid out by The Guardian and others are certainly cause for concern – climate change is seriously scary, our summers really are getting longer and hotter, as detailed in our Five Cs: Climate feature on page 136, etc. – but should Phoenicians really start cruising Zillow for homes in Oregon? Isn’t the situation in, say, Cape Town, South Africa – which recently floated the idea of floating icebergs to its shores to address its crushing water shortage – more dire? Lawyer and ASU scholar Grady Gammage Jr. thinks so. In his 2016 book The Future of the Suburban City: Lessons from Sustaining Phoenix, Grady characterizes the Valley as a pioneer in renewable water, regulating groundwater since 1980, and claims the city has actually decreased its water use since becoming more urban and populous over time. Plus, he argues, air-cooling is more energy-efficient than heating. So take that, Portland.

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