CAPLA Professor on Heat Mitigation and Management in the Southwest and the Broader Workforce
Leading extreme heat expert Ladd Keith, an assistant professor of planning and sustainable built environments in the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, was interviewed for recent articles in The Hill and Arizona Science, an NPR radio program.
The focus of each piece: how extreme heat impacts workers and other people, and how collaborative heat mitigation and management efforts can make a significant difference.
In “Attorneys general call for federal protections against deadly workplace heat,” published in The Hill on February 9, 2023, Keith discusses how workers may feel like they are jeopardizing their jobs if they take breaks during extreme heat—though some 170,000 workers “are likely injured on the job by heat each year, according to estimates published in a report last June by nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen,” notes the article.
He also discusses uniform national heat rules, which would require regional or local adjustments. “Monitoring heat in just in one spot in a large agricultural field isn’t going to tell you what people are feeling like out in the sun versus in the shade—or versus a concrete lot where they’re doing some other kind of mechanical work,” Keith says in the article. However, even standard mitigation makes a difference: “Whether it’s a cooling truck or a shade structure with water, it can go a long way.”
In “Investigating methods for heat management in Arizona,” which aired in Arizona Science on NPR 89.1 in Tucson on March 3, Keith speaks with Leslie Tolbert, a University of Arizona Regent’s Professor Emerita in Neuroscience.
In the interview, Keith discusses heat mitigation and management in the Desert Southwest, noting that heat deaths are increasing, with over 500 deaths last year. However, “we are one of the more innovative locations for heat mitigation and heat management because we have historically dealt with it longer,” he says. “We need to be doing a lot more, but we are seen as a national leader.”
Because Keith is receiving an increasing number of requests from cities to advise them on heat mitigation and management, he believes the federal government must step in. “Government infrastructures are important to put into place because they are most appropriate to serve the number of cities—which is eventually all cities—that need help addressing issues of heat,” he says.
Keith also speaks to a new, five-year research project with UArizona, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and two national laboratories that will undertake sophisticated climate change modeling and observations for the region and “translating that into informed policy-making decisions,” he says.
Researchers will work with local governments, students at the three universities and students at K-12 public schools on climate models and observations “to see how climate change is impacting their world.”
Keith, who joined CAPLA in 2009, has over a decade of experience planning for climate change with diverse stakeholders in cities across the U.S. His research explores heat planning and governance with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Transportation. He is also a faculty research associate at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy. In addition to founding CAPLA’s Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Built Environments, Keith teaches public participation and dispute resolution as well as climate action planning.
Learn more about Assistant Professor Ladd Keith, or support research and creative scholarship at CAPLA.