Heavy Reading On Cities And Climate

by Don Friedman on December 29, 2016

The Empire State Building, being less wasteful of energy than it might appear, as photographed by Anthony Quintano:


Cities are largely seen as profligate with energy and produce the majority of the world’s greenhouse gasses, but the issue is more complicated than that. Cities produce so much pollution because that’s where industry is and because in many countries that’s where electric power is. The flip side of the issue is that city life can be more energy-efficient: rowhouses, apartments, and office buildings usually require less energy to heat than small freestanding buildings, because they have less area of  wall exposed to the weather; mass transit is more economical to operate in denser settlements; and relatively small changes can have large effects when repeated across millions of people and buildings. Cities are also places where new ideas tend to get adopted quickly, such as the LED lighting that has greatly reduced the electricity required to light up buildings at night in New York.

The title promised heavy reading and here it is: Covenant of Mayors: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Achievements and Projections. There are all sorts of interesting facts buried in that report on how cities can and have reduced their contribution to world-wide pollution. It’s a long slog but worth it.

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