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Surburban Carbon Dioxide “Hurricanes” Surround Major Cities

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New York City is the "eye" of a suburban carbon dioxide "hurricane"
New York City is the “eye” of a suburban carbon dioxide “hurricane”

Thanks to research being done at the University of California at Berkeley, we can see, in a striking way, where the carbon dioxide emissions are generated, and cities aren’t the source.

The laws of mass-production, those that predict a drop in production costs and selling prices as production increases, also seem to fit well with the amount of carbon dioxide emissions we can expect to find in any given place. Cities, where millions of people live and work, generate less carbon dioxide, per family, than the suburbs, as shown by some new research data released by UC Berkeley (University of California at Berkeley). The interactive map sheds some light on the subject…

Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network, Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint (2013)

As you can see, if you zoom in on New York City, New York, for example, average carbon dioxide emissions ranges between 26 and 36 mt (metric tons) per family, per year. Jump across the Hudson River, to Warren, New Jersey, and that number jumps to nearly 74 mt of carbon dioxide per family. Go east, to Old Westbury, Long Island, and the average is a staggering 95 mt!

Once you get out of the suburbs, however, carbon dioxide emissions drop back down to city levels, such as my home town, in Columbia County, New York, at 44 mt. My favorite place to visit, Lake Placid, New York, is at 36 mt carbon dioxide. This pattern of suburban carbon dioxide hurricanes surrounding the eye-of-the-storm cities repeats itself across the country. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do to reduce or carbon dioxide emissions, no matter where we live.

The question is, what can suburbanites do about their huge carbon dioxide footprints? Fortunately, there are many resources they can take advantage of, such as residential solar power installations, improving the insulation in their homes, and buying and managing more-efficient appliances. They can also consider their transportation choices such as taking public transportation or buying fuel-efficient commuter vehicles.

Image © UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network

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