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Exploring the Green Canopy in cities around the world

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As cities around the world race to implement green canopy strategies, MIT have developed a metric ‘the Green View Index’ by which to evaluate and compare canopy cover. In collaboration with the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities and the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers community, MIT has built TREEPEDIA.

Increasing a city’s tree canopy contributes to lowering urban temperatures by blocking shortwave radiation and increasing water evaporation. Creating more comfortable microclimates, trees also mitigate air pollution caused by everyday urban activities. Their absorptive root systems also help avoid floods during severe rains and storm surges.

Cities around the world are recognizing this and many are developing strategies to increase green canopy cover. In fact, in 2015, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Agenda Council (GAC) on the Future of Cities included increasing green canopy cover on their list of top ten urban initiatives:

“Cities will always need large—infrastructure projects, but sometimes small—scale infrastructure—from cycle lanes and bike sharing to the planting of trees for climate change adaptation—can also have a big impact on an urban area.”

The Green View Index (GVI) was calculated using Google Street View (GSV) panoramas. This method considers the obstruction of tree canopies and classifies the images accordingly. By using GSV rather than satellite imagery, we represent human perception of the environment from the street level. The GVI presented here is on a scale of 0-100, showing the percentage of canopy coverage of a particular location. Explore the maps above to see how the GVI changes across a city, and how it compares across cities and continents.

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