6 Ways Parks Mitigate Climate Change Impacts

September 17, 2019 by Madeleine Koski

After attending our Sunrise on the Mississippi event a couple weeks ago, I was inspired by the topic of parks and climate change highlighted by our keynote speaker, Paul Huttner. As chief meteorologist for MPR News and host of the popular podcast, Climate Cast, Huttner spoke on changing weather patterns felt here in Minneapolis and the effects of a warming and more volatile climate.

While the entirety of climate change is a daunting issue and often overwhelming to confront, Huttner’s localization of this global issue shed some light on community solutions, such as investing in city parks, that can help us adapt to a changing climate.

As we experience heavier rainfalls, warming summers, and shifting weather patterns, understanding the importance of these six ways our parks mitigate climate change may be the clearing skies of a forecast ahead.

#1. Parks are 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than hardscape.

Image 1. The urban heat island effect

The heat island effect refers to the hotter temperatures felt within urban areas due to the roads, buildings, and infrastructure that trap and retain heat. Through evapotranspiration and cooling the earth below, areas made up of trees and plants within cities remain much cooler than their surroundings.

#2. Parks slow heavy rainfall runoff.

Image 2. Rainwater capture
Image courtesy of Paul Huttner, Sunrise on the Mississippi presentation

Trees and plants absorb rainwater, keeping large amounts of water from pooling on the ground below, thus reducing storm water runoff.

#3. Parks provide critical flood buffers.

Image 3. Average annual precipitation in Minnesota

With increased, heavier rainfalls, city flooding is becoming a greater threat throughout the US. In the Twin Cities this year, we have already broken the record for number of consecutive flood days. Urban parks along rivers create a flood buffer and reduce the amount of flooding, erosion, and storm water runoff.

#4. Parks improve urban air quality.

Image 4. Carbon capture by trees
Image courtesy of King County (kingcounty.gov)

Through carbon sequestration, parks are able to absorb COreleased into our atmosphere, store the Carbon, and release Oxygen back into the atmosphere to improve urban air quality.

#5. Parks provide healthy interaction with nature.

Image 5. Health benefits of parks
Image courtesy of ParkRx

There are many health benefits to living close to, and spending time in, nature. With increased parks in city areas, communities will profit from the improved health and mental wellbeing of the individuals living there. Additionally, spending time in parks may increase ones value of and appreciation for nature, shifting mindsets around the preservation of our environment and climate.

#6. Parks foster equal access to all economic groups.

Creating parks that are accessible and valuable to all economic groups will be crucial for cities to fully address climate change. Urban parks provide avenues for communities to share, experience, and learn from one another.

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation believes parks have the power to transform human life, and as we learn more about the potential that parks have to alleviate various effects of climate change, we see an even greater need for urban, green spaces.

Thank you to our Sunrise on the Mississippi keynote speaker, Paul Huttner, for shedding light on the challenges we expect to face here in Minneapolis and showcasing the powerful role that parks play as we adapt to a changing climate.

Learn more on the topic by viewing Paul Huttner’s 2019 Sunrise on the Mississippi presentation:

https://mplsparksfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2019-Sunrise-Parks-Foundation-Huttner-MPR.pdf

Additional resources related to parks and climate change:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/05/climate-crisis-cities-turn-to-parks/

https://www.noaa.gov/news/hot-days-in-city-it-s-all-about-location

https://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/info/pubs/docs/climate_change/en.pdf

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-56091-5_11

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180706102842.htm

https://prps.org/common/Uploaded%20files/Resources/CPA%20Investing%20in%20Equitable%20Urban%20Park%20Systems-July%202019.pdf

https://www.parkrx.org/

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