In Phoenix, Arizona, temperatures exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit more than 100 days each year, and the city is rapidly warming.
No one can entirely avoid the heat. But Melissa Guardaro of Arizona State University says there are vast disparities in how it affects people.
In a recent study, she interviewed about two dozen residents about their experiences of heat.
Some reported no trouble coping. They can afford to constantly run their air conditioners. And when they leave their homes, they drive to air-conditioned jobs.
“Their life is really not impacted,” she says. “So it’s just really an inconvenience.”
But for many low-income people, the heat is a tremendous burden.
Some sit at sweltering bus stops every day or work outside. They may be unable to take their kids to cool, indoor play areas. And many struggle to pay high utility bills.
“They say, ‘Ugh, we don’t even know where we’re going to come up with this money. … Do I pay for air conditioning and then not be able to pay my rent? Do I not pay for air conditioning, then my kid will have an asthma attack?’ It’s a very difficult situation to be in,” Guardaro says.
So she says there’s an urgent need to put more resources into home energy assistance programs and other initiatives that help the people who struggle the most during intense heat.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media