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Why it’s getting hotter

Why it’s getting hotter

Human activity is changing the climate and making the planet warmer. These changes pose risks to Philadelphia, and the City is taking action to address them.

Climate change

Since the Industrial Revolution, human activity has been the main cause of climate change. In the 1880s, farming societies started using machines and building factories. These new industries increased the need for fuel — which continues to the present day. Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gas, which traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere.

Today, the planet is warming faster than ever. This is causing serious changes to our environment. The average temperature has risen by 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

What this means for Philadelphia

From 1971 to 2000, Philadelphia had an average of four days per year that reached 100°F. By 2099, experts predict that 55 days per year will reach 100°F.

Hotter days may bring more heatwaves. These extended periods of hot weather are worse in cities like Philadelphia. This is due to the heat island effect — a term for the way that cities trap heat because of buildings, roads, and other structures.

Risks to Philadelphia

Philadelphia is at risk for:

  • Increased heat.
  • Increased precipitation, flooding, and severe storms.

These effects are felt differently across the city. Lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color are more likely to be harmed by the changing climate.

In Philadelphia, some neighborhoods can get as much as 22°F hotter than others. These neighborhoods have more low-income residents and residents of color than other neighborhoods.

This pattern of unequal exposure to risk tells us that climate change is not only a public health issue. It’s also a racial and social equity issue.

What the City is doing

The Office of Sustainability is leading the City’s efforts to address climate change. They’re working with partners to:

  • Improve the quality of life in all Philadelphia neighborhoods.
  • Reduce carbon emissions.
  • Prepare Philadelphia for hotter, wetter weather.

Beat the Heat

Hunting Park is one of Philadelphia’s hottest and most heat-vulnerable neighborhoods. In 2018, the Office of Sustainability worked with residents to support community-driven decisions about how to respond to extreme heat. Hunting Park residents informed the City’s first community-driven resilience plan, Beat the Heat Hunting Park: A Community Heat Relief Plan.

Office of Sustainability continues to work with community leaders and City departments to prepare Philadelphia for extreme heat and other climate change effects.

You can start your own Beat the Heat project in your neighborhood. Get all the tools you’ll need in the Beat the Heat toolkit.

Other City programs focused on climate change

TreePhilly is an urban forestry program of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy. Trees and greenspace absorb carbon, the main greenhouse gas behind climate change. They can provide relief from heat through shade and evapotranspiration.

Green City, Clean Waters is a 25-year plan to restore local waterways. It uses plants and trees to absorb harmful stormwater before it pollutes our rivers.

Solarize Philly is a rooftop solar program of the Philadelphia Energy Authority. Switching to renewable systems like solar power is a critical part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making energy sustainable.

Learn more