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Malaga needs more trees and green spaces to save lives from summer heat

Malaga needs more trees and green spaces to save lives from summer heat

A European study finds the city is only behind Budapest and Barcelona, with 112 deaths each summer attributable to the urban 'heat island' effect

IGNACIO LILLO

MALAGA.

Wednesday, 1 February 2023, 18:03

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Malaga city has many virtues to boast of, but the abundance of green areas is not one of them. Numerous voices have said for years that the city need more trees. Now scientific confirmation of this need has come in a European study, published on Tuesday in the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet.

The report, led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, together with various academic institutions in Spain, the European Commission, the United Kingdom and the United States, places Malaga as the third city in the EU with the highest number of deaths per year due to the effects of a "heat island" – the rise in temperature that occurs in urban areas due to the lack of green areas that provide shade.

The report states that average summer temperatures reach 27.7C, with a heat island effect of 1.9C. Almost 99% of the population is exposed to 1C more because of this phenomenon, resulting in the direct premature death of an average of 113 people during the summer season (with a range of 100 to 125 cases). Not only that, but more than 12% of annual premature deaths are caused by the high temperatures reached in summer.

Premature deaths

Only two cities in Europe have worse data: Budapest, where there are 378 premature deaths from this cause each year, with 9% of annual premature deaths linked to this factor. Barcelona has 363 premature deaths attributed to the summer season heat which is equivalent to 15% of annual premature deaths.

At the other end of the scale are the major Swedish cities, as well as several cities in the UK and the Baltic republics, where there are hardly any deaths from this cause. The study was carried out in 93 European cities.

The research, the preliminary results of which SUR reported in November 2021, takes into account the largest cities in the EU, with a combined population of 57 million inhabitants. The data refers to the months of June, July and August 2015, and takes as reference daily high-resolution data from rural and urban areas of each municipality.

Solutions

As for solutions, the title of the report gives a very strong clue: "Cooling cities with green urban infrastructures: a health impact assessment of European cities". The combination of global warming due to climate change and the expansion of cities means that the intensification of urban heat islands has adverse effects on the health of the population. The solution is the creation of green areas with canopy trees which can reduce temperatures locally, provided the green areas are increased by around 30%. An increase in tree cover at this level would lead to a cooling of cities by 0.4C, which would prevent 2,644 premature deaths in Europe, accounting for almost 2% of all premature deaths associated with summer heat.

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