Planting Trees Can Help Communities Beat the Heat

Tree canopy is our first line of defense against the heat impacts of climate change.

In a summer that has already given us what used to be once in a generation heat waves, historic wildfires whose smoke has spread across the continent, and dangerous bouts of extreme weather around the world, the impacts of climate change are already affecting our daily lives. As the risk of extreme weather—especially extreme heat—continues to grow, our cities are becoming one of the fastest warming places on the planet. According to the EPA, climate change not only leads to higher temperatures but also longer, more severe waves; urban spaces already suffering from the heat island effect will be most affected by these high heat events. 

“The situation seems daunting when you lay it all out there,” said Mario Dagonel, TreePeople’s Senior Manager of Community Organizing. “We can’t forget that each of us has the power to make real impact—real meaningful change—not just for our personal situations but for our communities as a whole.” 

Dagonel and his team are on the front lines of engaging communities across Southern California on how we can cool our cities. For Mario and TreePeople, it’s not just a heat problem but an equity problem. 

“These are parts of the city that have been shut out of the process and historically haven’t had their voices heard in the halls of power,” he said. 

Tree canopy is our first line of defense against the heat impacts of climate change. Tree canopy can help reduce surface temperatures by up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and reduce air temperatures by nine degrees Fahrenheit. Making sure that tree canopy is developed in the most at-risk communities is TreePeople’s biggest priority. “We need to make sure that the communities that are at the most risk when it comes to climate change have their voices heard and their needs met.”

TreePeople’s work to increase tree canopy coverage and help keep Californians cool continues to grow — from San Fernando and the Northeast San Fernando Valley, to Watts and Lynnwood and starting this fall we’ll be launching an effort to bring thousands of new trees to the city of Riverside. You can join TreePeople’s efforts to plant thousands of new trees and create greener, healthier, more resilient communities by visiting our website for volunteer opportunities near you. To learn more about how trees protect our cities from extreme heat events, visit RX for Hot Cities. 

By Adam Thomas

As staff photographer and videographer, Adam brings a decade long passion in telling people's stories to TreePeople. From the joy of a tree planting to the behind the scenes efforts of our policy advocacy and restoration work, Adam captures it through his lens so it can be shared with the world. When he's not behind the camera, he can most likely be found curled up with his cat Kinsella.