Reducing CO2 through technology and smart growth

Feb 11, 2009
Reducing CO2 through technology and smart growth
Brian Stone is associate professor of city and regional planning at Georgia Tech. Credit: Rob Felt/Georgia Tech

A Georgia Tech City and Regional Planning study on climate change, published February 10, 2009 online by Environmental Science and Technology, shows that "smart growth" combined with the use of hybrid vehicle technology could reduce cities' carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions - the principal driver of global warming - significantly by 2050.

According to Brian Stone, associate professor of City and Regional Planning, the research shows that expected levels of CO2 emissions from cars and trucks in 2050 could be reduced back to 2000 levels if the full vehicle fleet was converted to hybrid electric vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius or the soon-to-be released Chevy Volt. This research also found that a doubling of population density in large U.S. cities by 2050 would have a greater impact on CO2 reductions than full hybridization of the vehicle fleet.

Stone's study looked at 11 major metropolitan regions of the Midwestern U.S. over a 50-year period and took into account three different scenarios: the use of hybrid vehicles and two different urban growth scenarios through which population density was increased over time, a central component of smart growth planning.

"In this study we looked at two general approaches on how to deal with the challenge of climate change," said Stone. "One approach is to improve vehicle technology and become more efficient. We can use less gas and reduce tailpipe emissions of CO2. The second approach is to change behavior by changing the way we design cities. We can travel less and take more walking and transit trips."

Stone says he believes it would be possible for virtually all cars on the roads by 2050 to be hybrid electric vehicles, assuming the costs of these vehicles become more competitive with conventional engine technologies. Today's hybrid electric vehicles can achieve 40 miles to the gallon and higher.

However, even the full hybridization of the national vehicle fleet by 2050 would not meet the CO2 targets identified though the Kyoto Protocol, an international climate change agreement which the United States has signed but not yet ratified. To meet these global targets, CO2 emissions from all sectors on the U.S. would need to return to 1990 levels or lower. According to Stone's work, meeting this goal in the transportation sector would require a combination of technological improvements and higher density land use patterns in cities.

"If we can help cities to grow in more compact ways, what we call smart growth, it will help reduce emissions even further by allowing people to travel less often, travel shorter distances when they do travel and take advantage of public transit," said Stone.

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology

Explore further: Pact with devil? California farmers use oil firms' water

Related Stories

Solar Impulse 2 pilot becomes aviation legend

9 hours ago

At 62 years of age, Swiss Solar Impulse 2 pilot Andre Borschberg has made aviation history with a record breaking solo flight across the Pacific that he has called "an interior journey".

Facegloria: Facebook for Brazil's Evangelicals

9 hours ago

Fluffy clouds waft across a blue sky as you log in and while you chat with friends, Gospel music rings out: welcome to Facegloria, the social network for Brazilian Evangelicals.

Mexico City proposes regulations for Uber

9 hours ago

Mexico City is proposing regulations that would allow Uber and other smartphone-based ride-sharing apps to operate, while requiring drivers and cars to be registered, the city's Office of Legal and Legislative Studies said ...

Researchers discover new mechanism of DNA repair

23 hours ago

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed.

Recommended for you

Gimmicks and technology: California learns to save water

Jul 03, 2015

Billboards and TV commercials, living room visits, guess-your-water-use booths, and awards for water stinginess—a wealthy swath of Orange County that once had one of the worst records for water conservation ...

Cities, regions call for 'robust' world climate pact

Jul 03, 2015

Thousands of cities, provinces and states from around the world urged national governments on Thursday to deliver a "robust, binding, equitable and universal" planet-saving climate pact in December.

Will climate change put mussels off the menu?

Jul 03, 2015

Climate change models predict that sea temperatures will rise significantly, including in the tropics. In these areas, rainfall is also predicted to increase, reducing the salt concentration of the surface ...

As nations dither, cities pick up climate slack

Jul 02, 2015

Their national governments hamstrung by domestic politics, stretched budgets and diplomatic inertia, many cities and provinces have taken a leading role—driven by necessity—in efforts to arrest galloping ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.