Friday, February 29, 2008

Harvard's Upcoming Environmental Conference will Praise Center Cities

Who says that Boston is a sleepy, gray town? While my wife and I have voted for sunshine over snow, others have stayed and appear to be wide awake. Permit me to quote a co-author:

"Next week, a conference jointly sponsored by the Harvard Center for the Environment, Rappaport Institute, and Mayor Thomas Menino's office will explore the phenomenon of green cities. As we face the prospect of climate change encouraged by vast quantities of man-made greenhouse gases, we should rethink those decisions that lead to more energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Is it wise for American development to be so concentrated in low-density, car-oriented, energy-intensive suburbs?"

If you demand correct attribution of quotes, then please look here
Glaeser on The Environmental Benefits of Cities

I must admit that this topic interest me. Ed Glaeser and I are working on this topic right now and the paper will be good!


Anonymous said...

I found Glaesers comments interesting, but the exampls he gives seem anecdotal. Is there a comprehensive study of total energy use? It seems to me that the examples Glaeser gave dont show the whole story. Cities use lots of outdoor lighting, eleveators, escalators, etc that don't occurr so much in rural areas.

If Urban areas need help caring for the poor, then rural areas need help caring for the land that provides natural resources the cities need, but don't generally pay for.

The EIA document "Space-Heating Energy Consumption in U.S. Households by Urban/RuralLocation, 2001" shows that while rural households consume more energy for space heating, they consume less energy per square foot. Rural households are frequently larger than urban ones so simply pointing out that they use more energy is an inadequate comparison.

On Gapminder you can plot %urban population against energy use and see that more urbanization seems to be correlated with more energy use and with increasing CO2 production.

Overall, I'm not conviced that Glaesers argument is anything more than a call for preserving open space: making rural areas more expensive by increasing the subsidies they already provide to the cities.

That said, I suspect there ae errors in the balance sheet in both directions. Until we sort them all out, or at least the major ones, I don't see that Glaesers claims are valid.


Anonymous said...

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