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Planting trees could prevent deaths from higher temperatures: Lancet Study

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These studies underscore the need for more sustainable and climate-resilient policies. (Representative)

London:

According to a model study published in The Lancet magazine, planting more trees could cut deaths from higher summer temperatures in cities by a third.

The study of 93 European cities found that increasing tree cover by up to 30 percent can help reduce the temperature of the urban environment by an average of 0.4 degrees Celsius and prevent heat-related deaths.

Of the 6,700 premature deaths attributed to higher temperatures in cities in 2015, a third of them (2,644) could have been prevented by increasing urban tree cover by up to 30 percent, the researchers said.

These findings underscore the need for more sustainable and climate-resilient strategies to be integrated into local policymaking to support climate change adaptation and improve population health, they said.

“We already know that high temperatures in urban environments are associated with negative health outcomes such as cardiorespiratory failure, hospitalizations and premature death,” said the study’s lead author, Tamar Iungman of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain.

“This study is the largest of its kind and the first to specifically examine premature mortality from higher urban temperatures and the number of deaths that could be prevented by increased tree cover,” Iungman said.

The researchers estimated the mortality rates of residents aged 20 and over in 93 European cities between June and August 2015, representing a total of 57 million inhabitants.

Mortality data from this period were analyzed with daily average city temperatures in two modeling scenarios: the first compares city temperature without urban heat islands to city temperature with urban heat islands, and the second simulates the temperature reduction as a result of increasing tree cover by 30 percent.

Exposure-response functions were used to estimate the number of deaths attributable to urban heat and the number of deaths that could be prevented by increasing tree cover.

A total of 6,700 premature deaths could be attributed to hotter urban temperatures during the summer months, accounting for 4.3 percent of the summer mortality and 1.8 percent of the year-round mortality.

The research found that one in three of those deaths (2,644) could have been prevented by increasing tree cover by up to 30 percent, thereby lowering temperatures.

That equates to 39.5 percent of all deaths attributed to hotter city temperatures, 1.8 percent of all summer deaths and 0.4 percent of year-round deaths, they said.

There was large inter-city variability in temperature-related mortality rates, from no premature deaths due to higher city temperatures in Gothenburg, Sweden, to 32 premature deaths per 100,000 population in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Overall, the cities with the highest temperature mortality rates were in southern and eastern Europe, where the highest temperatures were reached, with these cities benefiting most from increases in tree cover.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by TOI.News staff and was published by a syndicated feed.)

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