September 30, 2007

D.C. Tops Sweden

Holy f—: "The Washington [D.C.] area produces more carbon dioxide than several medium-size European countries, [thanks to] the region's crawling traffic and coal-fired power plants." That's 65.6 million tons of CO2 emitted in 2005, more than Hungary, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, or Switzerland, all of which have far more people. (The area produces 25 percent more carbon than Sweden, which has nearly twice as many people—see here for why Sweden's so clean.)

For my money, the scary factoid here is that D.C.-area residents are actually fairly green when stacked against the rest of the country, emitting 13.2 tons of carbon annually, versus a national average of 20 tons. And they already use public transit at far higher rates than most of the rest of the country. So, I guess the main options for cutting emissions are: convincing people to live in D.C. proper rather than the suburbs and kicking all those coal plants to the curb.

Sure, sure. Easier said than done. Although I was lazily clicking through reading a new report by the Urban Land Institute, Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change (the "evidence," obviously, is that we're never going to mitigate climate change unless we figure out how to make our urban areas more compact and less sprawling), and came across this most intriguing tidbit:
The density increases required to achieve the changes proposed in this publication would be moderate. Nelson’s work shows that the average density of residential development in U.S. urban areas was about 7.6 units per acre in 2003. His predictions of shifting market demand indicate that all housing growth to 2025 could be accommodated by building condominiums, apartments, townhomes, and detached houses on small lots, while maintaining the current stock of houses on large lots.

Under this scenario, while new developments would average a density of 13 units per acre, the average density of metropolitan areas overall would rise modestly, to about nine units per acre. Much of the change would result from stopping the sprawling development that has resulted in falling densities in many metropolitan areas.
That doesn't sound so painful, now does it?
-- Brad Plumer 11:12 PM || ||