Downtown Montreal seen from the Mount Royal lookout.
Planting more trees in urban areas to bring down summer temperatures could cut deaths directly linked to heat waves by a third, researchers said on Wednesday.
Modeling has revealed that if a city's vegetation cover could reach 30% of its surface, compared to an average of 14.9% currently, it would reduce the average temperature of 0.4 degrees Celsius during summer heat waves, reports a study published in The Lancet .
Of the 6,700 premature deaths attributed to warming temperatures in 93 European cities in 2015, the results show that a third could be prevented.
This study 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, underlined the ;lead author, Tamara Iungman, researcher at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health.
Temperatures in cities are higher than in surrounding suburbs or countryside, due to heat islands.
This difference in temperature is mainly due to the removal of vegetation, the removal of heat from air conditioning systems, as well as the asphalt and dark-colored 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, said Ms. Iungman in a statement.
“Our goal is to inform local policies and decision-makers about the benefits of strategically integrating green infrastructure into urban planning, to promote more sustainable, resilient and healthy urban environments.
— Tamara Iungman, researcher at Barcelona Institute for Global Health
Due to human-caused global warming, rising temperatures in cities will be more intense, hence the increasingly urgent need for cities to adapt to improve health outcomes.
Already last year, Europe experienced the hottest summer on record and the second hottest year. Worldwide, heat waves are reaching record highs and their duration has increased in recent decades.
Today, the cold is causing even more deaths in Europe than the heat. But forecasts based on current emissions reveal that heat-related illnesses and deaths will place a greater burden on health services within a decade.