Stopping Sprawl Won't Happen Soon Enough to Fight Global Warming

Policies that encourage density as a way to reduce carbon emissions won't be able to play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions in time to counteract global warming, according to a new report from the National Academy of Sciences.
September 3, 2009, 2pm PDT | Nate Berg
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The change brought on by rapid densification, urbanization and abandonment of sprawl development patterns by 2050 would not be enough to counteract climate change brought on by carbon dioxide emissions, according to the report.

"Urban planners hoping to help mitigate CO2 emissions by increasing housing density would do better to focus on fuel-efficiency improvements to vehicles, investments in renewable energy, and cap and trade legislation now being voted on in Congress, according to the study, released Tuesday. It concludes that increasing population density in metropolitan areas would yield insignificant CO2 reductions.

Even if 75 percent of all new and replacement housing in America were built at twice the density of current new developments, and those living in the newly constructed housing drove 25 percent less as a result, CO2 emissions from personal travel would decline nationwide by only 8 to 11 percent by 2050, according to the study. If just 25 percent of housing units were developed at such densities and residents drove only 12 percent less as a result, CO2 emissions would be reduced by less than 2 percent by 2050."

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Published on Thursday, September 3, 2009 in Technology Review
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