By Emily Mussio Marquez
Las Vegas is heating faster than any other city in the United States. Since 1970, the average temperature has increased by 5.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Climate change isn’t some future crisis we need to prepare for, it’s happening now and risking public health, especially for the city’s most vulnerable residents.
Since 1980, we have experienced hotter, longer and more frequent heat waves. Last August was the hottest in Las Vegas recorded history, with the average temperature increasing by 3.8 degrees and 30 days of triple digit highs. The annual average of excessive heat events has increased from 3.3 events per year to 4.7 in just a 3 year period.
With the increase in heat has come a sharp increase in heat-related deaths. The communities most at risk include children, older adults, those who are homeless, and those with existing health conditions. Between 2007-2017, 560 people died from heat-related illnesses, with most of those deaths occurring in 2016 and 2017.
The city’s response to this crisis has been to issue warnings to residents to stay hydrated and stay indoors during excessive heat waves. But not everyone has functional cooling systems, or even shelter. Climate change is a public health crisis putting Vegas residents at risk, especially the most vulnerable residents.
On top of all this, the city has continually grown outward into the surrounding desert, paving it with heat-absorbing asphalt and concrete. This outward growth means cars travel further across the urban sprawl, increasing carbon emissions by the transportation sector.
Las Vegas will not be a livable city if we continue on this path of increasing carbon emissions and unchecked growth. But if we take bold action now, we can improve the quality of life for residents today and for future generations.