Mapping Climate Impact at the Neighborhood Level

A consumption-based analysis illustrates the differences in average household emissions across census tracts.

2 minute read

December 15, 2022, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Cars on a New York City street

Ryan DeBerardinis / New York City traffic

A set of maps based on University of California, Berkeley research highlights the climate impact of households in different neighborhoods, as outlined in a New York Times article by Nadja Popovich, Mira Rojanasakul, and Brad Plumer. 

The data indicates that, while households in central cities tend to have lower carbon footprints thanks to access to transit and smaller homes, wealthier neighborhoods, even in dense, transit-rich cities like New York, have larger footprints than their close neighbors. “The researchers used a model, a simplified mathematical representation of the real world, to estimate the average household’s emissions in each neighborhood based on electricity use, car ownership, income levels, consumption patterns and more.”

The consumption-based analysis traces emissions to the households responsible for them rather than measuring them at the point of production. “The original idea behind the research, which began more than a decade ago, was to connect climate change with daily life, to help people understand how their choices contribute to a global problem,” according to Chris Jones, director of the CoolClimate Network at Berkeley, who developed the methodology. 

The article points out that consumption results from a series of decisions, some made at the individual level, others, such as housing and transportation policy, at systemic levels. Now, Jones hopes cities can use the data to identify the most climate-friendly policies “by, for example, encouraging developers to build more housing in neighborhoods where people don’t need cars to get around or helping households in suburbs more quickly adopt cleaner electric vehicles.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2022 in The New York Times

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