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Infrastructurist: Suburbs Pollute More than Cities

By Erica C. Barnett January 31, 2011

Contradicting the common assumption that cities produce more greenhouse gas emissions than suburbs, a new study shows that cities tend to have lower emissions than suburbs, Infastructurist reports. The denser a city's population, in fact, the lower the per-capita greenhouse gas emissions. The less wealthy a city, the lower its per-capita emissions tends to be.
To illustrate this point, the authors of the new report examine per capita emissions rates in three locales in the greater Toronto region. The lowest per capita emissions rate (1.31 tons of carbon) belonged to the inner-city neighborhood of East York, home to dense apartments within walking distance of a commercial center and public transit. The highest rate (13.02) was found in Whitby — pictured at the top of this post — a sprawling suburb whose residents rely on automobiles to reach the shopping districts. Splitting the difference was Etobicoke (6.62), an area full of single-family homes but still accessible to the downtown core via public transportation.

Seattle, with 13.68 tons of annual CO2 emissions per capita, ranked better than sprawling southern cities like Houston (14.1 tons of CO2 emissions per capita) and Austin (15.57 tons per capita), but worse than most cities on the West Coast, including San Francisco (10.1 tons per capita), Portland (12.41 tons per capita), and Los Angeles (!) (13.0 tons per capita).
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