Three practical solutions to environmental problems | Environment | All topics from climate change to conservation | DW

The constant din of cities is bad for our health. This is one of the conclusions of a UN report released Thursday.

According to the UN, people around the world, from Barcelona and Cario to New York, are at risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease due to the constant roar of traffic, construction sites and road traffic. other sources of noise pollution. environment program.

Noise pollution: cities that never sleep

In Europe alone, loud and constant noise is responsible for 48,000 cases of heart disease and the premature death of some 12,000 people a year.

In the animal world, birds are among the most affected by the problem. Zebra finches, tree sparrows and chickadees sing louder or adjust their frequency so they can communicate with each other over the clamor. But this leads to more frequent misunderstandings between the birds and can hurt the males’ chances of finding a mating partner. Their new songs are not always well received.

Planting more trees and shrubs in cities could help, according to the authors of the report. The plants would disperse and attenuate the noise, while improving the climate and the urban landscape. A line of trees growing behind a noise barrier, for example, can reduce noise levels by about 12 decibels.

Researchers say giving cyclists more space would help reduce noise

Traffic noise could also be reduced by widening cycle lanes and reducing car lanes. Creating green zones in cities would promote quieter electric vehicles and improve air quality.

Disturbed natural rhythms

Migratory birds no longer fly south in winter, plants flower much earlier, and birds build nests for their young earlier when there aren’t enough insects to feed them.

Climate change is not only increasing global average temperatures, it is also disrupting life cycles that have been established for thousands of years. These changes affect all kinds of habitats, from mountainous areas and coastal regions to forests and grasslands.

Animal and plant species cannot adapt to the rate at which the planet is warming, increasing the risk that entire ecosystems on land and in the ocean will collapse with unforeseen consequences for humanity.

A large bird in a tree, the sun behind it

Migratory birds are among the species affected by the changing seasons

To slow the rate of climate change, we must drastically and rapidly reduce emissions. But to cope with changing life cycles, researchers say it is essential to actively protect species, restore ecosystems and connect habitats by creating wildlife corridors. This is the only way to ensure that species’ gene pools remain intact and that they have the opportunity to adapt to new conditions through natural selection.

Fight fire with fire

Forest fires are a natural part of many environments, but longer, more extreme heat waves and droughts extend fire seasons and increase the likelihood of fires breaking out.

Fires destroyed huge swaths of forest from California and Siberia to Turkey and Australia last year. These fires also released huge amounts of pollutants such as soot, particulates and greenhouse gases, significantly worsening air quality in nearby towns. Forest fires can also cause water pollution, marine eutrophication and loss of biodiversity.

Burnt cars, charred trees and decimated houses following a fire

Climate change-related fires are increasingly prevalent around the world

According to the authors of the UN report, certain precautionary measures could help to mitigate the forest fires and their consequences. Better cooperation between neighboring regions, satellite surveillance, lightning detection, improved early warning systems and firefighting capacity could all help.

Experts also recommend using traditional fire fighting methods. Controlled burning of forest or bush creates a barrier against an impending wildfire as it will use up all available fuel. Fires can have benefits in some ecosystems because some flowers and plants only grow when their seeds are heated by combustion.

This article was originally published in German

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