As the sixth largest state by land area, Arizona has a lot of land, and a lot of desert. Situated at the heart of the scorching American Southwest, Arizona regularly clocks in as one of the hottest states in the country and is home to the two hottest cities in the United States. As the Earth warms, Arizona’s 7.3 million residents face life-threatening rising temperatures and ever-dwindling water supplies. In 2018, heat-related deaths in Phoenix alone reached a new high: 128 people one summer. As the planet continues to warm, Arizona’s homeless population will be particularly vulnerable to this health hazard. The dry, hot terrain also contributes to the state’s ongoing megadrought, which is contributing to a whole host of issues including the rapid aridization of the Colorado river, which supplies water to over a third of Arizona’s population. The state is also seeing worse and more frequent wildfires.
Arizona’s energy trends lend some hope. Per capita energy consumption in Arizona is already among the lowest in the nation, and the state is uniquely poised for a switch to renewable and clean energy. Arizona has some of the best solar resources in the country and produces the nation’s highest-grade uranium — crucial for nuclear energy generation. Arizona puts this resource to work in the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, the nation’s largest nuclear power plant. Palo Verde generates more electricity annually than any other U.S. plant, second only to the Grand Coulee Dam in total electricity generating capacity. Fossil fuels continue to play a significant role although Arizona, which used to depend primarily on coal for its electricity, has since 2018, shifted to natural gas, which has become the state’s largest single energy source — generating one third of Arizona’s power. The rest of the state’s energy comes from renewable sources, with a special emphasis on solar and hydroelectric power.
In 2006, Arizona’s Climate Change Advisory Group was charged with preparing an inventory and forecast of Arizona’s greenhouse gas emissions and developing a Climate Change Action Plan with recommendations on how to reduce the state’s emissions. The report included a comprehensive set of 49 policy options.
Arizona has not yet developed a statewide adaptation plan. However, local communities have taken up the battle as best they can. In 2008, the city of Tucson formally established the “Framework for Advancing Sustainability,” a comprehensive plan for the city to address climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions. By September 2020, The Tucson City Council declared a climate emergency and will implement a decade long plan to become carbon neutral by 2030.
In 2009, Phoenix completed its Climate Action Plan, which it is updating now to be completed by the end of 2021. Its goals: to become a carbon-neutral city by 2060 operating on 100% clean energy, with new buildings being net positive by 2050, and significant greenhouse gas reduction targets between 2025 and 2050.
However, Arizona lawmakers pose obstacles to pushes for sustainable changes. In January of 2020, The Arizona Committee on Natural Resources and Energy voted to stop cities from prohibiting construction of natural gas-powered buildings. The legislation passed would act as a pre-emptive strike against future similar city measures. The decision came on the heels of aggressive lobbying by business interests claiming that any prohibition of natural gas would hurt Arizona’s economy. The measure now needs full Senate approval to pass.
In August, 2020, a highly anticipated meeting of the ACC ended abruptly, amid commissioner disputes over drive to 100% clean energy.
CREDIT: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah