Economy

Could Economies Collapse in US Cities Plagued by Climate Change?

April has started, and traditionally temperatures across the nation remain well below the peaks they will hit this summer. However, some spikes in heat have come early this year. Phoenix broke a 32-year record as the temperature reached 94 degrees Fahrenheit on March 25. This might be viewed as a prologue to another summer that posts dozens of days when the mercury rises above 100 degrees, and as high as 110.

The temperature in Phoenix and other areas in the southwest will combine with drought already years old. The National Drought Monitor shows the area of Arizona nearby at the “exceptional drought level.” The agency identifies this as an area with “widespread crop and pasture losses, fire risk, and water shortages that result in water emergencies.” Its long-term forecasts show this will not change in the hardest-hit parts of the country.

Phoenix’s population has grown as fast as that of any other large American city. Infrastructure has not kept pace. Access to water, in particular, exemplifies the combination of overbuilding and systems that cannot supply new residents with basic services.

Could parts of Phoenix become uninhabitable? Certainly, the answer is yes. City officials have found no way to bring more water to the region. Residents and the businesses that support them quickly could crumble, and population growth would reverse.

Just a decade ago, no one could have forecast that a large city would buckle because of the environment. Certainly, this would be impossible for a metro area with millions of residents. Presumably, such a major problem not only drives people to move elsewhere. It also begs the question of where they might go. No other region close by can absorb an influx of people at such a magnitude.


For now, the situation that faces Phoenix cannot be reversed, and that means its residents face a nearly impossible situation.

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