Video: New York City’s Green House Gas Emissions in 3D!
It’s not exactly big news that New York City emits a lot of green house gas. You know, Carbon Dioxide, Methane gas, Nitrous Oxide. That stuff.
The video above if nothing else, is excellently dramatic. I think it’s great. I can see the headlines, “Breaking News: Big Turquoise Balls Take Over Time Square! Run!” Ok, maybe the “Run!” was a little bit much. The video which I first found on this Huffington Post article, was created by Carbon Visuals which seeks to more effectively communicate carbon data and draw peoples attention to emissions. Show the scale that it is truly affecting the Earth.
It’s good to take time to consider each of our carbon emissions, and how we can reduce it, and it is also important to understand the scale — especially when considering cities as large as New York. Lowering the footprint of individuals in large cities is as I had mentioned before, a great opportunity, because it is easier to make changes to large populations in dense areas like New York, which has massive positive long term effects reaching far wider than the city limits. Not that we should only make changes that seem easy.
But, for example, the Huffington Post article linked above wrote this about NYC’s carbon emissions:
In an effort to remind everyone of his[Mayor Bloomberg's] 2007 goal to reduce carbon emissions by more than 30 percent by 2030, a new study has been released showing the city’s gas emissions declining faster than originally targeted. At this pace, Bloomberg could see the goal reached as early as 2017.
People often think of cities as the antithesis of “green,” but in reality, cities are leaders in the movement. David Owen in his book Green Metropolis writes about what makes a city so darn earth friendly:
A dense urban area’s greenest features–its low per-capita energy use, its high acceptance of public transit and walking, its small carbon footprint per resident–are not inexplicable anomalies. They are the direct consequences of the very urban characteristics that are the most likely to appall a sensitive friend of the earth.
These ideas are not frivolous, there is value in them, and they are backed up by facts. Not to attack good ol’ Vermont here, but as Owen’s book goes on to mention, Vermont happens to rank 11th highest in per-capita gasoline consumption, while New York State ranks dead last as a direct result of New York City’s very low consumption rates. Vermont at 545 gallons per person per year, and NYC at 146. Manhattan residents only consuming an average of 90 gallons per person per year.
That’s right: Manhattan’s per-capita gasoline consumption is less than 1/6th that of Vermont. But damn, it’s not like I want to do without Ben and Jerry’s or VT’s awesome slopes, but at least we can all recognize how cities actually can positively affect the Earth on the whole. We shouldn’t ignore the fact that a city like New York is a huge importer and exporter of people and things, so that also has a large carbon impact that should be considered as well, and we will discuss that later.
Are alternative forms of transportation keeping us green
Considering the correlation between climate change(human impacted), and the increase of intense weather patterns, Mayor Bloomberg endorsed Obama after Hurricane Sandy took its toll on New York, citing climate change as his main concern for the future of the United States. Over the past 5 years New York City has been able to reduce carbon emissions by 16%, which is the equivalent of cutting the carbon emissions of Seattle–TWICE!
Because I believe that New York’s widespread use of mass transit, and investment in bike and pedestrian projects is a main reason for the city’s ability to lower its emissions so drastically, looking over this mornings article from The Atlantic Cities Can We Stop Pretending Cars Are Greener Than Transit?, I appreciated something the author pointed out at the end. The article was written as one of a few retaliations directed at Eric Morris, a Clemson planning professor, who asked the simple questions of, “Can cars be greener than transit?” The short answer of course is “Yes.” But the long answer also of course is, “No!”
This chart makes it pretty clear, which shows the CO2 emissions from different types personal motor vehicles and mass transit:
But, what the Author, Eric Jaffe, mentions at the end is that buses and mass transit lead to more sustainable infrastructure that encourages not only the use of mass transit but also walking and biking which are the most sustainable ways to get from A to B. This is important, because more cars equals less sustainable infrastructure, more far flung and spread out neighborhoods, wider roads, and all of this again leads to more cars and more emissions. If you are riding in a personal motor vehicle, it’s not a bad idea to think about taking the personal out of that statement, and sharing the ride via carpool. Carpooling is an excellent way to cut down, and a step which is easy to implement.
There are many ways to lower your carbon emissions on the personal level, but also on a broader scale(Think: NYC). Beyond cities, suburban and rural communities need to also think of new ways to cut down–one compost bin in the backyard may no longer be enough. My fingers are tired of typing, so I’ll cover that in a post later this week.