Map Monday: Trees & Urban Carbon Emissions in the Twin Cities

As you may be aware, trees mitigate carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. As such, tree planting has gained popularity as a form of carbon offset, with some cities and states providing incentives to plant trees as an offset activity.

This 2015 study of the Twin Cities suggests that trees can help, but that they also offset a minor amount of carbon emissions. In other words: Trees help, but as a policy tree planting must be accompanied by aggressive tactics to reduce the emissions to be offset.

Carbon offset supply and demand

An 2015 University of Iowa study identified “hotspots” in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, where carbon emissions far outpace trees’ ability to store the pollution. The analysis may help city planners determine the best locations to focus tree-planting efforts.

Researchers calculated the amount of carbon generated in Ramsey County and Dakota County, and then calculated the amount of carbon absorbed by all trees in those counties. They found that trees offset just 1% of these counties’ carbon emissions. They also noted hotspots – shown in red on the map – where the amount of carbon generated was high and the number of trees was low. The land area represented in the study is roughly 331 square miles, with a population (in 2015) of more than 350,000 people. Researchers calculated carbon emissions per census block — land areas with populations of at least 2,500 people that are used by the US Census.

While researchers found that trees were inadequate to the emissions produced, they do emphasize that trees are still beneficial as part of an overall climate approach, as well as lovely, scenic, shade-giving and positive for the environment.

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3 Responses to Map Monday: Trees & Urban Carbon Emissions in the Twin Cities

  1. Mike July 29, 2019 at 8:21 pm #

    So are these effects only in place during the leaf season? I assume Trees don’t help at all in winter? Just Curious.

  2. Jack August 1, 2019 at 8:03 am #

    It’s hard to tell from the above map, but it looks like a major hot spot is Hiawatha Avenue. Hiawatha has some trees planted along it, but they are small and scrubby things. Imagine if they planted tall, full canopied specimens there. They could widen the center median and plant more trees on it, which would also help.

    • . August 14, 2019 at 9:32 am #

      They should do that as a traffic calming measure. The street is wider than it needs to be leading most cars to speed, especially where the speed limit changes from 50 to 40 north of Lake St but the design of the street does not.

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