University of California, Berkeley has released a new set of interactive maps illustrating national energy usage. The visually striking if troubling images reveal a stark urban/suburban divide regarding carbon footprint, with the latter contributing far more in emissions than their city-dwelling counterparts.
Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint (Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network (2013)
The maps were produced as part of the school’s CoolClimate Network. The three correspond to average annual household carbon footprints, household energy carbon footprint, and vehicle miles traveled respectively. Hovering your mouse over a particular region allows for a more detailed breakdown of the three categories. The data suggests an inverse relationship between population density and carbon footprint size, which is to say that more densely populated cities tend to be more energy efficient. A further look at the numbers suggests that much of this correlation can be explained by the high transportation costs pervasive in suburbia.
Average Household Energy Carbon Footprint (Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network (2013)
Yet before New Yorkers or any other urbanites grow too smug, the net effect of this relationship may be largely null. The denser cities that demonstrate a relatively lower carbon footprint tend to be the very areas that spawn the extensive suburbs possessing problematically higher ones. The correspondence between usage and population density is not applicable when only suburbs are taken into account, and in fact the opposite correlation tends to be true. Researches claimed that this finding can be explained largely by economic factors. Curious users can see how their household stacks up against their own neighbors or any other region in the country by filling out the Network’s CoolClimate Carbon Footprint Calculator.
Average Vehicle Miles Traveled by Zip Code (Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network (2013)