Suburbs Offset Low Carbon Footprints of Major U.S. Cities, Study Finds

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City-dwellers in the U.S. have significantly smaller per-capita carbon footprints than their rural counterparts, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley. But the carbon-intense suburbs surrounding major cities essentially cancel out the small carbon footprints of city residents, the study found.

Vehicle emissions accounted for the majority of carbon dioxide produced in the suburbs, reflecting suburbanites’ longer commutes to work, school, and stores. The study looked at 37 factors — including weather, income, home size, and transportation data — to estimate household carbon footprints.

The average carbon footprint of households living in the center of large, densely populated cities is about 50 percent below the national average, while households in distant suburbs have carbon footprints up to twice the national average.

Taking into account the impact of all urban and suburban residents, large metropolitan areas have a slightly higher average carbon footprint than smaller metro areas, according to the study published in Environmental Science & Technology.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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