Urban climates are heating up faster than ever, so things are definitely getting hot and sweaty out there! Those bright city lights may be looking good at night, but with megacities experiencing rapid urban warming, many are feeling the heat.
In fact, big cities are now heating up by 0.5°C a decade on average, an increase resulting primarily from human activities. Also, a recent study found that cities are warming nearly 30% faster than rural areas, making this a definite hot topic.
But, urban greening could provide a way out of this city heatwave. It helps reduce urban warming by increasing vegetation, so instead of sweating it out in an urban furnace, we can transform our concrete jungles into, well, actual jungles. Sort of.
The Causes of Urban Warming
One of the main causes of urban warming is the urban heat island effect. The urban heat island effect is exactly what it sounds like. Basically, cities might as well be their own tropical islands. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), big cities might be up to 3 degrees warmer than their immediate rural surroundings.
When you think about it, it’s no surprise the concrete jungles we’ve created are pizza ovens in the making. Except, it sure feels like we are the toppings, especially in summer. Extra mozzarella, anyone?
A massive reason for the urban heat island effect is the presence of concrete and asphalt trapping heat from the sun. And if that weren’t enough, transport pollution swoops in and also produces and traps extra heat.
The Impact of Urban Warming
Urban warming is no joke, and its impacts can be felt in all areas of urban life. Heatwaves lead to more ACs being turned on, which leads to more energy use and higher greenhouse gas emissions contributing to air pollution.
In fact, electricity demand for air conditioning rose by nearly 10% for each 2-degree increase in temperature. ACs provide much-needed relief from heat waves, but using them is still a little counterproductive. The increased emissions from these units make cities even hotter.
On top of that, urban warming can also lead to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death. While it’s hard to put an exact number to it, around 5 million people die from heat-related worldwide each year, and that number is rising in the UK too.
Earlier this year, temperatures soared to 40.3°C in Lincolnshire, beating the record set in 2021 in Cambridge Botanic Gardens when thermometers read a staggering 38.7°C. Who knows what’s in store for next year?
The Benefits of Urban Greening
Urban greening is the power move of urban environments and we need it—now more than ever! Urban greening basically means introducing parks, gardens, and other green spaces into urban areas. Even planting a tree is technically urban greening if you do it in a city.
This process can offset the effects of urban warming by 0.13C a decade on average—which means major heat relief could be coming for cities all over the world that implement urban greening as part of their strategy.
Even better news? These urban green spaces also help fight climate change with their natural air-filtering superpowers! They absorb greenhouse gases more efficiently than urban buildings and provide necessary shading from direct sunlight during those hot summer days.
And that’s not all – studies show that green areas are likely to offer quantifiable benefits to people’s mental well-being and physical health.
What does Urban Greening look like?
Here in the UK, there are plenty of urban greening initiatives taking place already. Some cities feature “Bee Bus Stops” where bus stop roofs feature wildflowers and solar panels to encourage visits from the local bumble bees and other pollinators. They also do their bit for the planet by capturing harmful greenhouse gases.
There are other initiatives taking place too, like community gardens and tree-planting initiatives. Green Peace estimates that to hit our climate targets, the UK needs to plant 1.5 billion more trees. To put this into perspective, there are currently around 3 billion trees in the UK, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.
Charities like Trees for Cities are already doing their bit through various campaigns like the Tree for Every Child project in Bradford, where a tree is planted for every primary-aged child in the district.
Urban Greening is also a key element of London’s Healthy Streets campaign. Around £2.87 million has been awarded to 19 projects that will be delivered by several London boroughs. A range of projects are planned, including street gardens, rain gardens, parks, and sustainable drainage solutions.
This is in line with a wider strategy adopted by the city. The goal is to make half of London’s urban areas “green” by 2050. This will be achieved through various initiatives such as green roofs and urban farms, for example. Living walls where edible plants grow on rooftops and office buildings without the need for soil are another innovative way urban greening is taking over the capital.
And in Gloucester, a £1.6 million urban greening project funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is due to be completed in Spring 2023. From wildflower meadow creation to sustainable planting of native species, and river restoration, these projects aim to turn the area into a biodiverse haven for wildlife.
Zixty: Tackling urban warming with climate-conscious temporary car insurance
Urban warming is a serious issue that needs tackling. But it’s merely a symptom of something bigger. And that something bigger is climate change.
If you’re looking for ways you can help combat climate change yourself, why not start with looking into eco-friendly car insurance policies? Not only will you be helping your wallet but also helping the planet too. And, after all, cars are a key contributor to urban warming.
You might be surprised to learn that eco-conscious car insurance actually does exist (hi!).
Here at Zixty, we love planting trees! That’s why we plant a tree every time you take out a temporary car insurance policy and add Zixty Miles, our free eco-conscious feature, to your policy. But that’s not all. We also offset your journeys up to 100 miles every day.
Guess how we do that? Yup, that’s right. By planting even more trees with our friends over at Eden Reforestation Projects.
There are all sorts of great benefits to taking out a car insurance policy with us and enabling Zixty Miles. For one, you could do your part to make the planet a little greener. Literally.