Trees Absorb Carbon and Stormwater, While Saving Energy
Cities around the globe 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 promotes biodiversity in cities and makes them more livable for people. Urban forests also provide places for people to gather, socialize, and recreate.
Urban forests play an important role in fighting climate change and making cities more sustainable and livable places.
Here are some examples of how urban forests are being used to fight climate change around the world:
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 to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 25 percent.
In Singapore, the city government will 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.
More examples of cities using urban forests to fight climate change include:
- Chicago, Illinois has a goal of planting 75,000 trees per year. The city has also created a “heat island mitigation plan” that includes increasing tree cover in low-income communities of color, which are often disproportionately affected by the heat island effect;
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has a goal of doubling its tree canopy by 2050;
- Austin, Texas has a goal of planting 1 million trees by 2030. The city has also created a “heat island mitigation plan” that includes planting trees in strategic locations to reduce the urban heat island effect;
- Portland, Oregon has a goal of planting 3 million trees by 2030; and
- Seattle, Washington has a goal of planting 30 percent of its land area with trees.
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.
In addition to the cities listed above, here are more examples:
- Melbourne, Australia has a goal of planting 5 million trees by 2030.
- London, England has a goal of increasing its tree canopy to 25 percent by 2025.
- Berlin, Germany has a goal of increasing its tree canopy to 40 percent by 2030.
- Paris, France has a goal of planting 100,000 trees by 2030.
- Tokyo, Japan has a goal of increasing its tree canopy to 30 percent by 2030.
These are just a few examples of the many cities around the world that are using urban forests to fight climate change. Urban forests are a powerful tool that can help cities mitigate the effects of climate change, improve air quality, and make cities more livable and sustainable places.