City agencies fail to intervene before three older women die in uncooled apartment building

Read the full story from the Better Government Association.

A half dozen calls for help from a Rogers Park apartment complex went unheeded by city officials last month amid the season’s first heat wave that killed three senior tenants, a Better Government Association investigation found.

That’s because city officials say there was nothing they could do, given the lack of city laws to require landlords to cool their buildings during heat waves.

One alderwoman who visited the site two days before the deaths said she immediately joined the chorus of people trying to persuade building managers to turn off the heat and to turn on the air conditioning — all to no avail.

Let’s Talk About Heat Challenge

EPA and several co-sponsors have launched the Let’s Talk About Heat Challenge, a national competition to identify innovative and effective communication strategies that inform people of the risks of extreme heat and offer ways to keep safe during the hottest days.

Winners will share suitable messages and strategies used to reach target audiences with those messages, and proposed measures of effectiveness. The challenge sponsors hope to identify ways to monitor the effectiveness of heat risk campaigns and messages and share the best practices with communities across the nation.   

The challenge will award up to 10 prizes from a total prize pool of $120,000.   

Important Dates

  • Informational Webinar: June 22, 2022 at 2 pm ET  Register for the webinar.
  • Submissions Due: July 22, 2022 by 11:59 pm ET. 
  • Winners Announced: Fall 2022

Questions? Email heatchallenge@epa.gov.

Chicago planted trees at a higher rate in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods over the past decade, Tribune investigation finds

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Over the past decade the city has backtracked on ambitious goals made years ago to provide residents with trees, particularly on the South and West sides where researchers say trees are needed the most, a Tribune investigation found.

The failures come as research shows trees blunt the warmer, wetter effects of climate change in the Great Lakes region. Fewer trees in neighborhoods can mean hotter temperatures, more flooding, dirtier air and higher electric bills — all of which can affect mental and physical health.

The city’s half million street trees, those often found on the strip of grass between roadways and sidewalks, make up a part of the overall canopy coverage, along with trees in parks and yards. How the city manages these trees can directly affect residents’ quality of life.

Tribune analyzed the rate at which street trees were planted per mile of streets from 2011 through 2021, finding higher planting rates in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods deemed less of a priority.

Can we cool warming cities?

Read the full post at JSTOR Daily.

Researcher Julie Donner led a Berlin-based team in a study to determine how cities are addressing the issue of urban heat hazards. While most EU development projects are legally bound by climate change legislation, her team asked if the extant climate action plans were more focused on mitigation (the reduction of greenhouse gases) or adaption (implementing measures such as increasing urban vegetation or open spaces).

Donner’s team selected twenty-four of Germany’s most densely populated cities and evaluated their climate plans. The team found that though climate is at the forefront of all the plans, the suggestions and action points tend to focus on carbon emissions and mitigation, with less attention given to heat and adaptation. Adaptation strategies such as upgrading housing insulation make few appearances in the plans. On the other hand, seventeen cities recognize the importance of “fresh air corridors that safeguard an air exchange between cooler air from the outskirt areas and the warmer urban air.” This positive is unfortunately counterbalanced by the low number (eight) of plans that consider adaption strategies such as albedo enhancement (increasing light-colored surfaces and reflectivity). Natural and synthetic updates in this area could keep homes—and people—cooler without requiring additional air conditioning.

Increasing urban greenery could have prevented at least 34,000 US deaths over two decades

Read the full story from Boston University.

A US nationwide study found that increasing green vegetation in large, metropolitan areas could have prevented between 34,000-38,000 deaths, based on data from 2000-2019. The study also showed that overall greenness in metro areas has increased in the past 20 years, by nearly 3 percent between 2000-2010 and 11 percent between 2010-2019.

In Chelsea, cooling an urban heat island one block at a time

Read the full story from WBUR.

A city block just behind the industrial waterfront in Chelsea is typical for urban heat islands across the U.S. Nearly every foot is covered by a roof or pavement. There’s a Boys & Girls Club at one end and a vacant lot at the other. Ten multi-family buildings with parking lots for backyards fill out the middle. A few weeks ago, there were just five small trees.

But this nondescript slice of the state’s smallest city is worth watching. It may become a template as municipalities struggle with longer, more intense warm seasons and heat waves.

Charlottesville’s 10th & Page has fewer trees and higher temperatures than other residential neighborhoods — and it’s not by accident

Read the full story at Charlottesville Tomorrow.

The temperatures in 10th & Page are way above most residential areas and on par with shopping centers and other commercial places, according to the city’s new Heat Watch Report. Why? The 10th & Page neighborhood has the fewest trees of any primarily residential area in Charlottesville.

The situation is expected to get worse. According to a forthcoming study by Charlottesville’s Tree Commission, the entire city is losing trees. The tree canopy decreased some 35% over the last two decades. If the trend continues, the entire city will get hotter. 

To combat this, the Tree Commission has recently proposed a handful of solutions for the city to consider. Suggestions include “strong ordinances” that require protection of existing trees in development or redevelopment projects through measures like setbacks on properties. They also suggest incentives for developers to plant new trees. 

While the commission is proposing solutions for the city to ponder in its upcoming zoning rewrite, addressing the canopy issues in 10th & Page could prove more complex. 

Cities boosted rain, sent storms to the suburbs during Europe’s deadly summer floods

Read the full story from the University of Texas Austin. See also Fast Company’s article on the study.

A study used computer models to investigate how cities and climate change influenced the destructive and deadly rainstorm that struck the Rotterdam-Brussels-Cologne metropolitan region on July 14, 2021. The study found that the interplay of large-scale climate and local-scale urbanization intensified the storm, causing more rainfall than either climate or urbanization on its own.

‘Super trees’ may help save Houston … and beyond

Read the full story from Rice University.

Statisticians are sharing strategies to identify ‘super trees’ for urban areas that help mitigate pollution, flooding and heat.

A willfully misunderstood earmark can help reduce climate-change heat deaths

Read the full story in the New Yorker.

Critics of President Biden’s Build Back Better Act have singled out for mockery two words in the two-thousand-plus-page, roughly two-trillion-dollar legislation. Seizing on the words “tree equity,” FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group, told its more than four million Facebook followers, “The Democrats want YOU American Taxpayers to shell out $3 BILLION for ‘non-racist’ trees.” House Republican Whip Steve Scalise tweeted, “Dems’ far-left spending bill exposed: $2.5 BILLION of American taxpayer money for ‘tree equity.’ RT so everyone sees! Don’t let them get away with sneaking this through.” Even the Times, ignoring its earlier reporting, didn’t seem to take the issue seriously, running the headline, complete with scare quotes, “From Electric Bikes to ‘Tree Equity,’ Biden’s Social Policy Bill Funds Niche Items.” The story characterized funding for the initiative as one among dozens of “obscure measures and special interest breaks.”

Although the term “tree equity” is far from “yes, we can” in terms of effective political rhetoric, it is a reference to research showing that more tree canopy can save lives. This summer, when a once-in-a-millennium heat wave enveloped the Pacific Northwest, shattering high-temperature records and ending hundreds of lives, people in neighborhoods with scant tree cover suffered the most. Five of the at least sixty-two people who died of hyperthermia in the Portland metro area, for instance, lived in the lower-income Lents neighborhood, where in some areas trees shade just ten per cent of the surface—compared with Marquam Hill, where trees shade more than sixty per cent of the surface and no one died.