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Voters are concerned about extreme heat affecting their communities, poll shows

A U.S. map shows the change in annual summer temperatures in 246 cities across the country, represented by shades of red signifying temperature increases. Few areas have shades of white or blue to show cities with smaller temperature declines.
Courtesy of Climate Central
Since 1970, 235 of 246 U.S. locations had an increase in their summer average temperature, according to Climate Central.

As the summer months approach, new polling data shows that many voters are worried about the effects of extreme heat.

Data for Progress, a left-leaning think tank, polled 1,199 likely voters across the country and found that 67% are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about extreme heat impacting the health of their community, especially the elderly, homeless and low-income populations.

That’s a growing issue in the Mountain West. The three fastest-warming cities in the country are Reno, Nev., Las Vegas, Nev., and Boise, Idaho, according to 2022 data from research group Climate Central.

Julia Jeanty, a senior policy manager at Data for Progress, said a majority of voters (64%) also believe access to cooling devices like air conditioning, misting systems and tree shade should be viewed as a basic right, not a privilege.

“A lot of these communities, especially in the Mountain West, don’t have access to cooling infrastructure, because they’ve never historically needed to,” Jeanty said. “So that just poses such a threat.”

Jeanty said that explains why a majority of voters support state and local government spending on infrastructure to mitigate the effects of extreme heat, including community cooling centers, urban parks with trees, and reflective cool roofs and cool pavements.

Jeanty noted there are heat mitigation efforts through the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The IRA invests roughly $369 billion in climate and energy programs, including efforts to reduce the impacts of extreme heat. The IIJA invests $550 billion in resilient infrastructure to address the effects of climate change and extreme weather events, including extreme heat.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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