URBAN VS. SUBURBAN CARBON FOOTPRINTS: Environmental Impacts of population density
Which U.S. municipal locations contribute the most to household greenhouse gas emissions (HCF), and how do population density and suburbanization affect these emissions? Confirming a growing body of work on the negative environmental impacts of suburban sprawl, Christopher Jones and Daniel Kammen of U.C. Berkeley recently published the results of research finding consistently lower HCF in urban core cities and higher carbon footprints in outlying suburbs. Suburbs alone account for about 50% of total U.S. HCF!
The authors also noted an interesting paradox, often left unexplained in such large-scale studies, about overall metropolitan size: while population density contributes to relatively low HCF in the central cities of large metropolitan areas, the more extensive suburbanization in these regions contributes to an overall net increase in HCF compared to smaller metropolitan areas. Differences in the size, composition, and location of household carbon footprints suggest the need for tailoring of greenhouse gas mitigation efforts to different populations. For those with a scientific interest in the intricacies of data, see the full article here.
For a series of fascinating interactive maps based on this research, see the CoolClimate Calculator. The maps start with the U.S. continental scale, but allow you to zoom into particulaer localities. Having grown up in the Los Angeles area, I included a map of average household carbon emissions (HCF), which corresponds neatly with another one (not shown here) of average household vehicle miles driven monthly. With all this data, you can find out how you compare to local averages and create a personalized climate action plan for you or your community. Check it out!