Christine Suh

PressPac: Suburban sprawl accounts for half of U.S. household carbon footprint

Blog Post created by Christine Suh on Jan 22, 2014

Here’s an item from this week’s PressPac that we thought you’d enjoy. The PressPac features summaries of articles appearing in our peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News. To get the entire PressPac in your inbox, email us at newsroom@acs.org.


Many U.S. cities are taking steps to grow urban centers in an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But a challenge is the significant carbon footprint of spacious suburban living, which in many areas, may be cancelling out these efforts. The report, appearing in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that about half of the country’s household carbon footprint comes from people living in the suburbs.

 

Christopher Jones and Daniel M. Kammen point out that U.S. households, though they only comprise 4.3 percent of the global population, are responsible for about 20 percent of annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, which are driving climate change. In response, many governors and mayors across the country have pledged to reduce their states’ and cities’ emissions. But more information on the size and composition of household carbon footprints is needed to inform policies to make these reductions happen. A few studies have helped fill in some gaps, but they’re mostly small in scale and not broadly applicable. Jones and Kammen set out to paint a bigger picture.

 

They built an analytic model using national survey data to estimate average household carbon footprints for over 30,000 zip codes and 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 U.S. states. Their technique integrates a wide range of sectors, including transportation, household energy use and consumption of food, goods and services. The researchers found a number of surprising nuances. For example, Jones and Kammen found that population-dense suburbs have significantly higher carbon footprints on average than lower density suburbs, and there is a huge range across cities. As a result, they conclude that “an entirely new approach of highly tailored, community-scale carbon management is urgently needed.”  They have developed communication and estimation tools for public use at http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/maps and http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/carboncalculator.

 

The authors acknowledge funding from the California Air Resources Board and the National Science Foundation.


“Spatial Distribution of U.S. Household Carbon Footprints Reveals Suburbanization Undermines GHG Benefits of Urban Population Density”

 

Click herehttp://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es4034364for the abstract.


*Journalists can request a PDF of the journal article by emailing newsroom@acs.org.


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Credit: Pavel Losevsky/iStock/Thinkstock


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