Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Tagged with Las Vegas Burning


The economic crash brought Vegas to its knees; climate change could do it again

The Fontainebleau under construction in Las Vegas
Jay Bonvouloir

This is part of a series of stories about Las Vegas and climate change. Find the whole collection here.

Next time you fly into Las Vegas at night, take a close look at the casino-studded carnival in the center of the city. You'll notice something odd. Amid all the glitter, there are a couple of black spots, like patches of dark matter in a star cluster. These are the dead zones, reminders of the 2007 economic collapse that brought this city to its knees.

The largest one is the Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a gleaming, blue-black skyscraper that stands at the north end of the Strip. The $3 billion project was to be the tallest building between Dallas and L.A., a 68-story, 3,889-room hotel-casino that would out-glitz all the rest. It was two-thirds complete when the economy crashed, and time seemed to grind to a halt.

In 2010, billionaire Carl Icahn bought the bankrupt project at a fire sale for $150 million. Since then, it has become an eyesore and a destination for urban explorers. Icahn has been mum about his plans for the development, but the recent disappearance of the construction crane on its roof gives credence to rumors that he plans to dismantle the structure and sell it for scrap, possibly to the Chinese, who seem to still be building skyscrapers.

What a fucking world we live in.

And that’s the thing about Las Vegas. I was in town last month searching for chinks in this city’s armor -- signs that it is vulnerable to climate-driven catastrophe. What I found instead was that the obvious weak spots -- the dearth of water, for example -- are pretty much under control, at least in the near term. The real and present threats to this city are economic ones. If I were a betting man, I’d say Vegas is going to run out of money long before it runs out of water -- and climate change could have a hand in that.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


Sorry, Vegas: You just can’t fake being prepared for climate change

Moyan Brenn | Flickr

This is part of a series of stories about Las Vegas and climate change. Find the whole collection here.

This summer, climate deniers will gather for their annual meeting of the twisted minds, the International Conference on Climate Change, organized by the Heartland Institute and underwritten by the good people who brought you climate change in the first place. Their choice for a venue? The beautiful Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

On the surface, it seems like the perfect location. Vegas is built on fakery and denial. It’s a metropolis of 2 million people designed to look like Anytown, U.S.A., never mind the blazing desert at its fringes. The Strip, the metro’s thumping economic heart, is a blow-up sex doll of an urban experience, carefully engineered to make you feel rich even after you've been bilked of your last penny.

But despite all the sleight of hand, Vegas has had to grapple with some thorny realities -- and climate change is bringing more.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


Longtime Vegas water czar warns other cities to brace for climate change

patricia mulroy
Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services

This is part of a series of stories about Las Vegas and climate change. Find the whole collection here.

Patricia Mulroy has been called "the water empress of Vegas.” For 25 years, she lead the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the agency responsible for keeping the taps running in a desert metropolis that was growing like the fat guy in the Monty Python skit. As I wrote yesterday, she was a force to be reckoned with.

Today, Mulroy's name evokes a mixture of hatred and admiration among her fellow western water managers, environmentalists, and rural residents who have long opposed her proposal to import water from eastern Nevada to supplement Las Vegas' main water source -- Lake Mead, a reservoir on the Colorado River.

Mulroy retired from the water authority this winter and lasted all of two months before accepting a dual-position at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and Brookings Mountain West at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she is a senior fellow for climate adaptation and environmental policy.

I caught up with her recently for a conversation that ranged from climate adaptation to the California drought, rancher Cliven Bundy, and the day she thought Las Vegas had run out of water. Her message, in a nutshell: "I think there are some realities staring us starkly in the face. We need to focus on adapting."


Las Vegas’ binge drinking days are over. Can it survive the hangover?

Andrew Zarivny

This is the second in a series of stories about Las Vegas and climate change. Find part 1 here.

The next time you stay out late in Las Vegas and inadvertently imbibe a few too many cocktails -- an exceedingly unlikely scenario, I know -- rest easy knowing that help is just a bus ride away. A ride on the hangover bus, that is.

Billed as a “45-foot rolling hangover treatment clinic,” the bus is staffed by a pack of nurses and EMTs under the supervision of Dr. Jason Burke, a board-certified anesthesiologist and founder of a business called Hangover Heaven. Burke’s team will pick you up, slide a tube into one of your veins, and ply you with “intravenous fluids, intravenous antinausea medicine, anti-inflamatories, and a proprietary blend of IV vitamins and antioxidants,” Dr. Burke explained in an interview with Nevada Public Radio.

Call it what you want: The ultimate (nonalcoholic) hair of the dog? A sinister plot to encourage overindulgence and keep us glued to the slot machines? Dr. Burke is no doubt laughing all the way to the bank.

Patricia Mulroy knows something about this sort of game. She played Dr. Hangover for the entire Las Vegas metro area for 25 years as general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which is responsible for keeping the taps running in the city and its suburbs. Those suburbs went on a major building binge in the 1990s and early aughts, and when they ran low on fluids, it was Mulroy’s job to spike another bag, as they say in the ER, and get the construction workers back in the game. She was incredibly good at it.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


Las Vegas burning: Lessons in resilience from the nation’s driest big city

Wesley Allsbrook

“They’re coming for the burn,” my old friend Adam says.

We’re looking out across the broad, sun-beaten flats, watching the crowds file in. They’ve come across the playas, over the basin and range country, up through the palo verde and Joshua tree forests. They’ve traveled hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to gawk at the acrobats and the strippers, to ogle the music makers and the magicians, to play voyeur to the entertainers, the eccentrics, and the freaks.

It’s a massive party in the desert, and rising in the center of it all is a huge, spread-legged figure, ablaze in white light.

This isn't Burning Man. This party started long before anyone thought to put a pop-up city in the Black Rock Desert. That figure in front of us is the Stratosphere Tower. The glittering metropolis surrounding it? Vegas, baby. And right now, half the world is flying in for a weekend of debauchery.

From where we stand, looking out the window of Adam's 9th floor apartment in downtown Las Vegas, we can watch a line of airplanes making the final descent into McCarran International Airport. From the opposite direction, a procession of helicopters returns from air tours of the Grand Canyon. They all disappear behind the Strip like insects drawn into a flame.

That’s when Adam quotes the late Randy Udall: “We are the Oil Tribe. And we are in the midst of a great burn.”

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy