How New York City’s trees and shrubs help clear its air

Read the full story in the New York Times.

New York is surprisingly verdant for a city inseparable from its glass-and-steel towers. And its greenery may affect the city’s carbon footprint much more than previously known, according to new research by Dr. Reinmann, a forest ecologist at City University of New York, and his colleagues.

The tree canopies, shrubs and lawns cover nearly 35 percent of the city, according to the study. During its growing season in the spring and summer, the greenery takes up enough carbon to absorb as much as 40 percent of the human-caused carbon emissions in the New York City area.

How redlining shaped Baltimore’s tree canopy

Read/listen to the full story from Science Friday.

Redlining was pervasive in American cities from the 1930s through the late 1960s. Maps were drawn specifically to ensure that Black people were denied mortgages. These discriminatory practices created a lasting legacy of economic and racial inequality which persists today. 

Less obvious is how redlining has shaped nature and the urban ecosystem. A recent study found that previously redlined neighborhoods in Baltimore have fewer big old trees and lower tree diversity than other parts of the city. These findings are part of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, a collaborative research project which has tracked the city’s changing urban environment for the past 25 years. 

ERI part of NSF-funded collaboration exploring extreme heat solutions in Midwest communities

Read the full story from Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute.

Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) is a partner on a new National Science Foundation (NSF) Civic Innovation Challenge (CIVIC) grant to explore solutions to mitigate heat island effects in collaboration with Indianapolis and three other Midwestern communities.

The grant, led by the Midwest Climate Collaborative (MCC) of which ERI is a member, aims to design community-based solutions for equitable expansion of tree canopies by working with stakeholders and applying existing research and data.

How pavement can help cool overheated cities, even in chilly Mass.

Read the full story at WBUR.

Reducing pavement or making it more reflective are strategies more communities must adopt to help cool cities, experts say, and slow global warming. One of the dire challenges with pavement is how much heat it radiates at night.

Towns may grow millions more trees with $1.5B for urban forestry

Read the full story at Stateline.

States and cities across the country are beginning to embrace trees as critical infrastructure in urban areas. Neighborhoods with tree cover are significantly cooler than exposed areas known as “heat islands,” which can affect human health and utility bills. Urban forests absorb stormwater runoff, filter pollution from the air and sequester carbon.

As climate change threatens to bring increased heat waves, flooding and severe weather to many communities, some leaders are looking to trees as a potential solution. Some regions have been scrambling to restore urban forests that have been decimated by pests such as the emerald ash borer. And much like foresters in the Evergreen State, they may suddenly have more funding to help those efforts take root.

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law this month by President Joe Biden, includes $1.5 billion for the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, which supports efforts ranging from big cities to small communities. Agency leaders say the funding, which will be allotted through competitive grants, will be focused on reaching neighborhoods that lack green infrastructure and are bearing the brunt of climate change.

Towns may grow millions more trees with $1.5B for urban forestry

Read the full story at Stateline.

States and cities across the country are beginning to embrace trees as critical infrastructure in urban areas. Neighborhoods with tree cover are significantly cooler than exposed areas known as “heat islands,” which can affect human health and utility bills. Urban forests absorb stormwater runoff, filter pollution from the air and sequester carbon.

As climate change threatens to bring increased heat waves, flooding and severe weather to many communities, some leaders are looking to trees as a potential solution. Some regions have been scrambling to restore urban forests that have been decimated by pests such as the emerald ash borer. And much like foresters in the Evergreen State, they may suddenly have more funding to help those efforts take root.

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law this month by President Joe Biden, includes $1.5 billion for the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, which supports efforts ranging from big cities to small communities. Agency leaders say the funding, which will be allotted through competitive grants, will be focused on reaching neighborhoods that lack green infrastructure and are bearing the brunt of climate change.

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.