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Climate change in Tucson: What you need to know

Tucson's Climate Action Plan
Posted at 8:46 AM, Nov 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 08:53:38-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — From record-breaking heat to widespread fires, Tucson is no stranger to extreme weather. Gregg Garfin, a climatologist at the University of Arizona, said that this weather can be linked to climate change.

"What climate change does is it super charges the extremes," Garfin said.

Here in Tucson, he points to the number of 100-degree days as a warning sign. Currently the city averages 68 days a year but said that number will likely rise as climate change continues.

"This is a really critical time for us to address these kinds of issues," Garfin said.

Currently the city has a climate action plan that is aimed to make the city net zero by 2030.

"It's a super aggressive goal but something we are prepared to do," Mayor Regina Romero said.

The plan includes planting a million trees by 2030 and also rethinking the city's infrastructure to harness storm water. The goal of these two programs is to reduce the city's heat island effect.

"As we plant more trees to shade our city and try to cool down the temperature, that storm water can be used to feed those trees and keep them alive," Garfin said. "That is a win-win situation."

Garfin added this could help reduce temperatures and avoid more 100-degree days. Last year, more than 500 people died in Arizona because of heat-related causes.

"It is not just a climate issue its a public health issue and economic development issue," Romero said.

The issue is something that many young people across the city are also concerned about.

"If we don't make those commitments now, our generation is going to be the one that feels the impact," Kyle Kline, a senior at the University of Arizona, said. Kline helped organize a climate strike in 2019 that led to the city's current climate action plan.

"Our voices have impact," Kline said. "People realize that we are the ones who are going to be bearing the (brunt) of climate change and we can help solve it."