One U.S. State Boasts 33% Fewer Carbon Emissions Per Capita Than Any Other

California, the largest state by population in the United States, is responsible for 33% fewer carbon emissions per capita than any other state, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read Time: 2 minutes

August 3, 2020, 10:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery


United States map

Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal published "The carbon footprint of household energy use in the United States," a peer-reviewed study of about 93 million homes which shows that 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States can be attributed to residential energy use. The study also found California households to be a step ahead of those in other states in limiting its carbon footprint, producing 33% fewer carbon emissions, reports Evan Webeck. "San Francisco’s household emissions were nearly three times lower than the national average — 1.03 tons of carbon dioxide per capita vs. 2.83 for the U.S. — and lower than any other major city included in the research paper. In Los Angeles, the average household contributed 2.28 tons of carbon dioxide for the year, compared to 3.64 in Oklahoma City, 3.11 in Denver and 2.69 in Boston," writes Webeck. The study was conducted to assess which states and communities needed to make the most dramatic change to meet goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement for the years 2025 and 2050. 

A few key indicators accurately predicted which states have the most significant carbon footprints. The vast majority of the lowest carbon-emitting states were in the west while all of the greatest carbon carbon-emitting states were in the south and central United States. Another key indicator: income. Households in U.S. zip codes with the highest incomes "contributed 25% more carbon dioxide than households in low-income neighborhoods," Webeck says. Webeck adds that density, usually associated with decreased carbon dioxide emissions was not correlated with decreased carbon emissions to the same extent as income correlation. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020 in The Mercury News

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

A tent covered in blue and black tarps sits on a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk with the white ziggurat-topped L.A. City Hall looming in the background

L.A. County Towns Clash Over Homelessness Policies

Local governments often come to different conclusions about how to address homelessness within their respective borders, but varying approaches only exacerbate the problem.

February 3 - Shelterforce Magazine

Rendering of mixed-use development with parks and stormwater retention on former Houston landfill site

A Mixed-Use Vision for Houston Landfill Site

A local nonprofit is urging the city to consider adding mixed-use development to the site, which city officials plan to turn into a stormwater detention facility.

February 3 - Urban Edge

Aerial view of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin at sunset

Milwaukee County Makes Substantial Progress on Homelessness

In 2022, the county’s point-in-time count of unhoused people reflected just 18 individuals, the lowest in the country.

February 3 - Urban Milwaukee