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Trees Can Defend Cities From Extreme Weather

Cities are home to about 50 percent of the world’s population, but cities generate 80 percent of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, not to mention other forms of pollution. Cities are consuming a disproportionate share of natural resources, as well. Fortunately, many sustainable cities are taking steps to minimize their impacts on the environment and to minimize the threats that natural disasters pose to them. Urban forests are a vital part of the equation. Saving and planting trees strategically offers multiple benefits:

  • Reduce Energy Consumption: Strategically placing more trees near residential and commercial properties will help minimize energy use. Trees can help to reduce energy demand for heating and cooling buildings. In the summer, trees provide shade, which can help to keep buildings cooler. In the winter, trees can block cold winds, which can help to keep buildings warmer;
  • Carbon Sequestration: Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. This carbon is then stored in the tree’s wood and leaves. Urban forests can store a significant amount of carbon, helping to offset greenhouse gas emissions from other sources. Maximize tree placements along roadways, railways, and other open spaces to help offset carbon dioxide gases, while minimizing the heat-island effect along transportation corridors and in urban areas;
  • Reduce Air Pollution: Trees can help to filter air pollution, while producing oxygen. This improves air quality and reduces the risk of respiratory problems for people living in cities;
  • Protect Public Health: Studies have shown that living near trees and green spaces offers a number of health benefits, including reduced stress, improved mental health, and a lower risk of chronic diseases; and
  • Reduce Heat Island Effect: Urban areas are usually warmer than surrounding rural areas, due to the presence of buildings and other infrastructure. This is known as the urban heat island effect. Trees can help reduce the urban heat island effect by providing shade and releasing water vapor into the air.

In addition, urban forests promote urban agroforestry initiatives, including produce grown in the trees and other crops grown under them. Urban forests also provide habitat for a variety of plants and animals, including mammals, birds, butterflies, and insects. This can help to increase biodiversity in cities and make them more livable for people. Urban forests also provide places for people to gather, socialize, and recreate.

trees and climate action

In Los Angeles, California, the city has planted over 1 million trees since 2010. The goal is to plant 9 million trees by 2050. This would create one of the largest urban forests in the world and help absorb 25 percent of the city’s carbon emissions.

In Singapore, the city government has a one million trees movement. The goal is to plant one million trees by 2030. The city has already planted over 500,000 trees, and it is on track to reach its goal. Singapore’s urban forest helps to reduce the city’s temperature and improve air quality. In Medellín, Colombia, the city has planted over 5 million trees in the last 20 years. This has helped to reduce the city’s temperature by 2 degrees Celsius and improve air quality. Medellín’s urban forest is now a model for other cities around the world. These are just a few examples of how urban forests are fighting global warming and climate change. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, urban forests will play an even more important role in mitigating the effects of climate change and making cities more sustainable and livable places.

Read the full story about trees, global warming and climate change.

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Greener Cities is a division of Crossbow Communications. Greener Cities is a resource for sustainable and resilient cities and communities around the world.

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Avatar Gary Chandler

Author: Gary Chandler

Gary Chandler is a sustainability strategist, author and advocate. Follow him on Twitter @Gary_Chandler