- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Trees, bushes, meadows: It’s a perfectly civilized way to counter global warming. And a simple one as well. British scientists said yesterday that a little more greenery could keep global warming at bay for the next seven decades.

“We discovered that a modest increase of 10 percent green space reduced surface temperatures in the urban environment by 40 degrees, which would overcome temperature rises caused by global warming over the next 75 years, effectively ‘climate proofing’ our cities,” said lead researcher Roland Ennos, a biomechanics engineer with Manchester University.

The reduction would be just enough. Global warming analysts have predicted the Earth’s temperature could rise by 40 degrees by the 2080s, Mr. Ennos said.

His panacea is not complicated. Water has a cooling effect, and vegetation make better use of it than concrete and asphalt.

“Green space collects and retains water much better than the built environment,” Mr. Ennos said. “As water evaporates from the leaves of plants and trees it cools the surrounding air in a similar way to the cooling effect of perspiration as it evaporates from our skin.”

Not all solutions to possible rising planetary temperatures are so direct. Former Vice President Al Gore and other global warming activists have proposed myriad countermeasures that include charting one’s “carbon-neutral lifestyle,” driving hybrid cars, eating less meat and flying less.

At a conference on biofuels in Buenos Aires on Saturday, Mr. Gore warned his audience that global warming was the “most dangerous crisis we have ever faced as a civilization,” and “a moral issue, an ethical issue, a survival issue.”

Some cities, meanwhile, are becoming inventive.

Boston has installed solar-powered trash compactors while San Francisco officials propose to turn oil and grease from local restaurants into biofuels for the city’s garbage trucks. In Des Moines, Iowa, residents are being urged to use compact fluorescent bulbs, carry mesh shopping bags and stop drinking water from plastic bottles as a roundabout way to save energy.

But for the British researchers, it comes down to natural process. Mr. Ennos and his team measured and mapped the heat given off by buildings, roads and traffic in Manchester, ultimately determining that urban areas can be up to 54 degrees warmer than the verdant countryside.

Extra greenery has some side benefits as well.

“Such a reduction has important implications for human comfort and health within urban areas,” said Mr. Ennos, adding that cities need to store additional water for their plantings in future years, and devise ways to lessen the runoff of rain water.

American researchers have also lauded greenery in recent years. An analysis of 34 U.S. metropolitan areas by the Oregon Department of Human Services found that people simply get more beneficial exercise the more green space there is. The study deemed parks and trails a “public health priority.”

A University of Illinois study found that green spaces fostered “social ties and a sense of community” in low-income, inner-city housing, and Cornell University psychologists found that greenery actually increases a child’s attention span.

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