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High air temperatures are a public health threat, causing 1300 deaths annually in the United States (US) along with heat-related morbidity and increased electricity consumption for air-conditioning (AC). The authors found that 78% of urban dwellers are in neighborhoods with less than 20% tree cover. Some 15.0 million people (25% of total) experience a reduction of 0.5–1.0°C from tree cover, with another 7.9 million (13% of total) experiencing a reduction of greater than 1.0°C. Based on this analysis, the authors conclude that urban tree cover helps avoid 245–346 deaths annually. As AC availability has increased, the value of tree cover for avoiding heat-related mortality has decreased, while the value of tree cover for reducing electricity consumption likely has increased. Currently, for the 97 cities studied, the total annual economic value of avoided mortality, morbidity, and electricity consumption is an estimated $1.3–2.9 billion, or $21–49 annually per capita.

Robert I. McDonald, Timm Kroeger [The Nature Conservancy]; Ping Zhang [Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA; and Perrine Hammel [Natural Capital Project, Stanford University]

McDonald, R.I., Kroeger, T., Zhang, P. et al. Ecosystems (2019).

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