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Urban Trees, Green Streets, Urban Land Use, courtesy of EPA Office of Sustainable Communities

Urban trees

Trees and other urban vegetation help reduce the urban heat island effect by providing shade, and also help clean the air, sequester carbon dioxide, beautify the neighborhood, and raise property values. Several programs exist to increase urban vegetation, such as Million Trees NYC, Million Trees LA, the EPA’s compendium of strategies to reduce the urban heat island effect, the programs discussed in Georgetown Climate Center’s urban heat tool kit, and programs discussed in CCAP’s urban green infrastructure paper. Here we highlight one example: Chicago.

By the end of the century, Chicago is projected to experience 8-31 days per year on which temperatures soar above 100°F. Consequently, measures to reduce the urban heat island effect are in increasing demand. Since 1999, the city of Chicago has required developers to include a shade tree planted for every 25 feet of new building frontage in most commercial and residential neighborhoods.  In preparing for the 2006 Lasalle Bank Chicago Marathon, the city of Chicago decided to help its runners by planting trees along the route and maintained the trees to enhance the quality of life for residents in a low-income neighborhood that lacked green infrastructure.

Green Streets

Thanks to Abby Hall and Megan Susman of the US EPA Office of Sustainable Communities for providing images and information on green streets. Green streets incorporate vegetation and sustainable design features to cool ambient temperatures, reduce water ponding on the road, and provide shade and an attractive streetscape for pedestrians. Numerous communities are using green streets to manage stormwater runoff in a manner that yields multiple benefits. Green streets and green infrastructure can be a climate adaptation tool to help reduce the urban heat island effect and to help communities cope with increased precipitation without having to build costly new “gray” infrastructure. For example, Edmonston, MD implemented green streets techniques along Decatur Street to reduce flooding and reduce GHG emissions. Changes included creating a bike lane with permeable paving, installing LED street lights, and creating rain gardens along the street that capture, slow, and filter runoff to keep it from flooding the street and nearby homes.

Urban Land Use

Converting urban land into a park, historical landmark, or tourist attraction can reduce climate impacts on residents, commerce, and industry. According to the American Planning Association, cities can use parks to reduce public costs for stormwater management, flood control, transportation, and other forms of built infrastructure. For instance, Pittsburgh’s Point State Park was built to beautify downtown Pittsburgh, but offers the added co-benefits of providing a buffer between the river and buildings, cleaning pollution from the air, and serving as a carbon sink. Seoul, Korea has mandated that all new growth must be green (BBC video). In other cases, more extreme relocation might be necessary. In September, the communities of Newtok, Alaska and the Cateret Islands, Papua New Guinea, are among the first in the world to choose relocation as the best means of adaptation to the effects of a changing climate.

Other Urban Green Infrastructure

See our previous blog posts on Green Roofs, Green Walls, Living Walls, and more!



This post is part of CCAP’s blog series, “What Does Climate Resilience Look Like?”, which highlights adaptation images from around the world addressing a variety of climate impacts and resilience solutions. Have a climate resilience image to share? Please send us the photo by Twitter, Facebook, or email. (Please include the Who What Where: Who took the photo? What is the adaptation technique? Where is it located?) We are especially interested in examples that advance multiple goals such as GHG emission reductions and sustainable economic development.

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