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Trees and other plants help cool the environment, making vegetation a simple and effective way to reduce urban heat islands.
Trees and vegetation lower surface and air temperatures by providing shade and through evapotranspiration. Shaded surfaces, for example, may be 20–45°F (11–25°C) cooler than the peak temperatures of unshaded materials. Evapotranspiration, alone or in combination with shading, can help reduce peak summer temperatures by 2–9°F (1–5°C).
While studies demonstrate that air-conditioning can offer protection against extreme heat, it is also controversial because air conditioners tend to use a lot of electricity which is generated using fossil fuels that contribute to global warming. In addition, use of an individual air conditioner can drive up electricity demand during a heatwave resulting in blackouts. In places where electricity supply is limited or unable to handle high demand, it is generally preferred to provide public air-conditioned spaces, rather than encouraging the use of individual air conditioners at home.
Vulnerable people should stay in cool or air-conditioned1 environments during an episode of extreme or unusual heat. A city can designate public places as refuges during a heatwave, including air-conditioned common spaces such as museums, malls, community centres, libraries and other large spaces that can justify a backup generator in case of a blackout.
Increasing fluid intake during periods of extreme heat is beneficial. Drinking frequently without waiting to feel thirsty can reduce the risk of heat impacts. This is especially important for older people. It is also important for caregivers to be alert to hydration levels in those who are unable to care for themselves (bedridden patients, children, cognitively impaired).