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City density and CO2 efficiency

Gudipudi, Ramana, Fluschnik, Till, Ros, Anselmo García Cantú, Walther, Carsten, Kropp, Jürgen P.
Energy policy 2016 v.91 pp. 352-361
algorithms, buildings, carbon dioxide, cities, climate change, energy, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, issues and policy, population density, urbanization, United States
Cities play a vital role in the global climate change mitigation agenda. City population density is one of the key factors that influence urban energy consumption and the subsequent GHG emissions. However, previous research on the relationship between population density and GHG emissions led to contradictory results due to urban/rural definition conundrum and the varying methodologies for estimating GHG emissions. This work addresses these ambiguities by employing the City Clustering Algorithm (CCA) and utilizing the gridded CO2 emissions data. Our results, derived from the analysis of all inhabited areas in the US, show a sub-linear relationship between population density and the total emissions (i.e. the sum of on-road and building emissions) on a per capita basis. Accordingly, we find that doubling the population density would entail a reduction in the total CO2 emissions in buildings and on-road sectors typically by at least 42%. Moreover, we find that population density exerts a higher influence on on-road emissions than buildings emissions. From an energy consumption point of view, our results suggest that on-going urban sprawl will lead to an increase in on-road energy consumption in cities and therefore stresses the importance of developing adequate local policy measures to limit urban sprawl.