Opinion: Green spaces for hot cities

By Jeremy Williams

This year has already seen a number of notable heatwaves. India and Pakistan were in the headlines earlier this year. Japan just came through the worst heatwave in 150 years. The town of Onslow in Australia equalled the highest temperature ever recorded in the Southern hemisphere, at 50.7C.

In a warming climate, these stories are increasingly frequent and cities will need to adapt to build resilience to heatwave conditions. New images from the European Space Agency give us a clue about that resilience. Using a heat-mapping tool called ECOSTRESS, the ESA has published high-resolution images of land temperatures in three European cities. Here’s Paris, and you can zoom in on a larger version here.

It’s striking how temperatures are higher in built-up and industrial areas, while green space cools the city. Paris has a river of lower temperatures that reach beyond the waters of the Seine itself. The Boulogne forest and the Pantin cemetery are also cool spots, along with parks and tree-lined boulevards.

It’s worth comparing this map to Milan and Prague, the two other cities featured, which show similar patterns in their own urban landscapes.

An important message here is that green space and water mean cooler cities. Street trees are climate adaptation in action. And since trees take a while to grow, the time for big investments in urban trees is now.

First published in The Earthbound Report.

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