Carbon footprint maps reveal urban-suburban divide

Jan 17, 2014 by Tony Barboza

Where you live in a metropolis - the city or the suburbs - can make a huge difference in how much you are contributing to climate change, according to a new study.

People in the densely populated cores of big cities are responsible for less , but the more carbon-intensive lifestyle of their far-flung suburbs cancels out any of the benefits, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found.

The analysis used household income, vehicle ownership, home size, population density, weather and other data to estimate how different areas of the United States contribute to emissions at the household level.

Researchers found a striking divide: low-carbon city centers ringed by suburbs where households are responsible for an outsize proportion of greenhouse . In many big metropolitan areas like New York or Los Angeles, their research found, a family that lives in the urban core has about a 50 percent smaller carbon footprint than a similar-sized family in a distant suburb.

"The affluent suburbanites that commute long distances more than make up for the low-transportation footprint of urban dwellers," said Daniel Kammen, a professor of energy at UC Berkeley.

As part of the project, researchers produced interactive maps (coolclimate.berkeley.edu/maps) where users can see average household carbon footprints at the ZIP Code level and how much of it is related to transportation, housing, food, goods and services.

"You can see the green urban cores and the carbon shadows of the suburbs," Kammen said.

The study revealed big regional disparities as well.

A greater portion of carbon footprints in the Midwest are related to housing because of the region's cold winters and its reliance on more carbon-intensive coal to generate electricity. California has a cleaner energy portfolio but people drive a lot, so household carbon footprints there are dominated by emissions from transportation.

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation and the California Air Resources Board, was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The group behind the research, known as the Cool Climate Network, also produced a tool that allows users to calculate their carbon footprint and see how it compares to their neighbors. It is available at coolclimate.berkeley.edu/carboncalculator.

Explore further: Suburban sprawl cancels carbon footprint savings of dense urban cores

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Carbon calculator provides personalized footprint

Feb 29, 2008

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have created a carbon calculator that shows people as well as cities and businesses how their lifestyles contribute to global warming and identifies areas ...

Recommended for you

60% of China underground water polluted: report

2 hours ago

Sixty percent of underground water in China which is officially monitored is too polluted to drink directly, state media have reported, underlining the country's grave environmental problems.

Florida is 'Ground Zero' for sea level rise

15 hours ago

Warm sunshine and sandy beaches make south Florida and its crown city, Miami, a haven for tourists, but the area is increasingly endangered by sea level rise, experts said Tuesday.

UV-radiation data to help ecological research

21 hours ago

Many research projects study the effects of temperature and precipitation on the global distribution of plant and animal species. However, an important component of climate research, the UV-B radiation, is ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3432682
1 / 5 (2) Jan 18, 2014
Carbon footprint? I am 50% carbon, and so are almost all other animals and plants (dry weight).
OZGuy
1 / 5 (1) Jan 18, 2014
That may hold for cold climates but here:
Most suburban households do not run air-conditioners or clothes dryers, most inner-cirt apartments do. Many suburban houses are now running solar panels and solar hot water, inner-city apartments don't.
bmorrow492
not rated yet Feb 21, 2014
Yes, poor people have smaller carbon footprints.

More news stories

60% of China underground water polluted: report

Sixty percent of underground water in China which is officially monitored is too polluted to drink directly, state media have reported, underlining the country's grave environmental problems.

Florida is 'Ground Zero' for sea level rise

Warm sunshine and sandy beaches make south Florida and its crown city, Miami, a haven for tourists, but the area is increasingly endangered by sea level rise, experts said Tuesday.

NASA gets two last looks at Tropical Cyclone Jack

Tropical Cyclone Jack lost its credentials today, April 22, as it no longer qualified as a tropical cyclone. However, before it weakened, NASA's TRMM satellite took a "second look" at the storm yesterday.

In the 'slime jungle' height matters

(Phys.org) —In communities of microbes, akin to 'slime jungles', cells evolve not just to grow faster than their rivals but also to push themselves to the surface of colonies where they gain the best access ...

Robot scouts rooms people can't enter

(Phys.org) —Firefighters, police officers and military personnel are often required to enter rooms with little information about what dangers might lie behind the door. A group of engineering students at ...

New alfalfa variety resists ravenous local pest

(Phys.org) —Cornell plant breeders have released a new alfalfa variety with some resistance against the alfalfa snout beetle, which has ravaged alfalfa fields in nine northern New York counties and across ...