Build Parks to Climate Proof Our Cities

Family walking in field of flowers

More and more we see dire headlines in the news concerning global warming and the impact it will have on our planet. Our environment is changing, and we may not be prepared to offset all of the consequences. One of the biggest challenges that we face is the reality of “heat islands” created by the concrete and asphalt that make up the streets, parking lots and sidewalks of our major cities. The heating impact of cities is well documented, but what can be done to reduce it?

Scientists who study global warming and the way that large cities contribute to it all agree that increasing the amount of vegetation within cities will help reduce the heat island effect. Trees, shrubs and grass all play crucial roles in regulating the global temperature. Trees provide perhaps the most critical benefits, offering shade to reduce the heat of the sun that is absorbed and held in asphalt, taking in carbon dioxide and replacing it with clean oxygen, and releasing moisture into the air through leaves and branches which reduces the heat that the city generates.

Yet while trees play an important role in helping us to climate proof our cities, other types of vegetation are almost as critical. Shrubs along walkways can gather the sun and use it to convert light into energy without raising the local heat index. Grass and other types of ground-covering plants store moisture at ground level, regulating the temperature while improving the environment. Studies show that increasing the green space within major cities by a mere 10% could offset the predicted temperature rises of global warming for much of the next century.

Parks are not only pleasant places to spend quiet afternoons, they are major contributors to reducing the impact of global warming and helping us climate proof our cities.

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