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The Greenness of Cities Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Urban Development

The Greenness of Cities Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Urban Development

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Published by Ronan Lyons

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Published by: Ronan Lyons on Jul 02, 2009
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10/18/2011

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HHIIEERR
Harvard Institute of Economic Research
Discussion Paper Number 2161The Greenness of Cities: Carbon DioxideEmissions and Urban DevelopmentbyEdward L. GlaeserandMatthew E. Kahn
August 2008
 Harvard UniversityCambridge, Massachusetts
This paper can be downloaded without charge from:http://www.economics.harvard.edu/journals/hier2008The Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection:http://ssrn.com/abstract=1204716
 
T
HE
G
REENNESS OF
C
ITIES:
C
ARBON
D
IOXIDE
E
MISSIONS AND
U
RBAN
D
EVELOPMENT
 byEdward L. Glaeser 
 Harvard University
and
NBER
andMatthew E. Kahn
*
 
UCLA
and
NBER
July 11th, 2008
Abstract
Carbon dioxide emissions may create significant social harm because of globalwarming, yet American urban development tends to be in low density areas withvery hot summers. In this paper, we attempt to quantify the carbon dioxideemissions associated with new construction in different locations across thecountry. We look at emissions from driving, public transit, home heating, andhousehold electricity usage. We find that the lowest emissions areas are generallyin California and that the highest emissions areas are in Texas and Oklahoma.There is a strong negative association between emissions and land use regulations.By restricting new development, the cleanest areas of the country would seem to be pushing new development towards places with higher emissions. Citiesgenerally have significantly lower emissions than suburban areas, and the city-suburb gap is particularly large in older areas, like New York.
*
 
Glaeser thanks the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, the Rappaport Institutefor Greater Boston and the Manhattan Institute. Kahn thanks the Richard S. Ziman Center for Real Estate at UCLA. Kristina Tobio and Ryan Vaughn provided excellent research assistance.
 
2
I.
 
Introduction
While there remains considerable debate about the expected costs of global warming, agrowing scientific consensus believes that greenhouse gas emissions create significant risks of climate change. A wide range of experts have advocated reducing individual carbon footprintsand investing billions to reduce the risks of a major change in the earth’s environment (Stern,2008).
1
Almost 40 percent of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are associated with residencesand cars, so changing patterns of urban development and transportation can significantly impactemissions.
2
How do major cities differ with respect to their per-household emissions levels?In Section II of this paper, we review the basic theory of spatial environmental externalities.If emissions are taxed appropriately, then private individuals will make appropriate decisionsabout location choices without any additional location-specific policies. When emissions are nottaxed, then location decisions will be inefficient. The optimal location-specific tax on buildingin one place versus another equals the difference in emissions times the gap between the socialcost of emissions and the current tax on these emissions. Even if there was an appropriatecarbon tax, location decisions might still be sub-optimal if governments subsidize developmentin high emissions areas or artificially restrict development in low emissions areas.In Section III of this paper, we measure household carbon dioxide emissions production in 66major metropolitan areas within the United States.
3
For a standardized household, we predictthis household’s residential emissions and emissions from transportation use. We look atemissions associated with gasoline consumption, public transportation, home heating (fuel oiland natural gas) and electricity usage. We use data from the 2001 National Household TravelSurvey to measure gasoline consumption. We use year 2000 household level data from theCensus of Population and Housing to measure household electricity, natural gas and fuel oil
1
See also the critical reviews in Weitzman (2007) and Nordhaus (2007).
2
 
Seehttp://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggrpt/carbon.htmlfor sources of carbon dioxide emissions.
3
 
Our work parallels the findings of the Vulcan Project at Purdue University(http://www.purdue.edu/eas/carbon/vulcan/index.php
 
) and the recent Brookings Institution study by Brown andLogan (2008) fall into this category. Our exercise is slightly different since we look at the impact of a standardizedhousehold and we focus on marginal, rather than average, homes. For an example of international analysis thatdisaggregates greenhouse gas emissions variation within a nation, see Auffhammer and Carson’s (2008) study of China.

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