It’s a great idea that planting more trees in urban areas to lower summer temperatures could reduce deaths directly related to heat waves by a third, researchers said Wednesday, Feb. 1.
Tests have shown that if a city’s tree cover could reach 30 percent of its surface area, compared to the current average of 14.9 percent, it would reduce temperatures by an average of 0.4 degrees Celsius during summer heat waves, reports a study published in The Lancet.
There were more than 6,700 premature deaths due to warming temperatures in 93 European cities in 2015, the results show, so a third could be avoided.
This scientific report is the first to predict, in the context of global warming in cities, the number of premature deaths that could be avoided by additional tree cover, noted lead author Tamar Iungman, a researcher at the Institute for Global Health in Barcelona.
Since the creation of urban centers, temperatures in cities have been higher than in the surrounding suburbs or countryside, due to heat islands.
The explanation is simple because the increases in temperature are mainly due to the removal of vegetation, the removal of heat from air conditioning systems, as well as the asphalt and dark building materials that absorb and retain heat.
“We already know that high temperatures in urban environments are associated with negative health outcomes, such as cardiorespiratory failure, increased hospital admissions and premature deaths,” Iungman said in a statement.
“Our goal is to inform local policy and decision-makers about the benefits of strategically integrating green infrastructure into urban planning to promote more sustainable, resilient and healthy urban environments.”
With human-induced climate change, temperature increases in cities will be more intense, making it increasingly urgent for cities to adapt to improve health outcomes.
In 2022, Europe experienced the hottest summer on record and the second-warmest year on record. Around the world, heat waves are reaching record highs and their duration has increased in recent decades.
Winter, with its freezing temperatures, causes even more deaths in Europe than heat. But forecasts based on current emissions show that heat-related illness and death will be a greater burden on health services within a decade.