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Cities Soak up More Carbon Than We Thought

Cities spew out a lot of carbon, but it turns out that their trees, parks, and gardens absorb much more than we thought.

The climate change news beat is usually void of any uplifting stories, but a recent study by scientists in the UK offered a rare bit of positive news. It turns out that cities, typically considered to be carbon-spewers rather than carbon-absorbers, can actually store quite a bit of the stuff.


Conservation scientists from the University of Kent found out that the mid-sized city of Leicester (pictured above) stores ten times as much carbon as earlier calculated, about 231,000 tons. That's equivalent to the combined annual emissions of 150,000 sedans. Leicester could further expand its capacity to store carbon by planting more trees. Currently most of Leicester's publicly owned land is covered in grass, but transitioning that land to just 10 percent tree coverage would amp up the city's carbon storage by 12 percent.

While this news may just be common sense (trees are good!), it's another important argument for why urban planning needs to incorporate green space, particularly the shady kind. The human population is on track to add more than two billion people to our ranks in the next fifty years. Much of that growth will happen in urban areas, which currently shelter more than half of the globe. We'll need that urban land to absorb as much carbon as possible if we have any hope of fighting climate change.

Image (cc) by Flickr user Matt Preston

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