KUNM-FM: Peter O'Dowd

It's been a record hot summer in many cities across the nation. Phoenix is no exception. This Sonoran Desert metropolis already records more days over 100 degrees than any other major U.S. city. Now, climate models predict Phoenix will soon get even hotter.

A hotter future may mean a more volatile environment — and along with it, natural disasters, greater pressure on infrastructure, and an increased physical toll on city residents.

On the western edge of Phoenix, it's easy to find vast tracts of empty land once prepped for two-by-fours and work crews. Utility stanchions emerge like errant whiskers from the desert floor.

This is the land of zombie subdivisions. Some experts believe up to 1 million dirt lots in central Arizona were in some stage of approval for new homes when the market crashed.

"It's tragic," says Realtor Greg Swann. "It's heartbreaking."

Urban planners are floating a radical solution for areas like this. It's known as "smart decline."