Expanding a canopy and curbing emissions
When said and done, it's believed that Milan's tree-planting spree will increase the total number of trees in the metro area by 30 percent while capturing an additional 5 million tons of CO2 each year. At the same time, officials estimate that an influx of new trees would eliminate 3,000 tons of health-compromising airborne particulate matter over the span of a decade and help to drop temperatures within the heart of the increasingly sweltering city by up to 2 degrees Celsius.
As Damiano Di Simine, scientific coordinator for Italian environmental group Legambiente, elaborates to the AP, it's that last aspect — mitigating the the urban heat island effect — that could have the most dramatic impact. Presently, nighttime temperatures in Milan can be as much as 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than in outlying areas in the Lombardy region.
Di Simine explains that Milan's geographic location in the northwest of the Po Valley near the foothills of the Alps is one that experiences minimal wind. This means polluted air is infrequently cleared out and mugginess can prevail for uncomfortably long stretches.
"The lack of wind also accentuates the urban heating," Di Simine said. ''It means the discomfort from thermic inversions is terrible, because the climate is very stationary. Planting trees will help this."
To more effectively counter the impacts of a changing climate, Milan can't just rely on trees to do all of the heavy lifting. This is especially true when it comes to limiting vehicle emissions.
Although the city of 1.3 million people has a robust public transit network that includes a metro system, light rail and an extensive number of tram lines, at the end of the day it remains a car-centric town with a high rate of automobile ownership per capita, a large number of daily commuters and notorious traffic congestion.