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As Vanguard for Climate Action, Low-Carbon Cities Could Save $22 Trillion


As Vanguard for Climate Action, Low-Carbon Cities Could Save $22 Trillion

Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

Compact, connected, and efficient "low-carbon" cities could generate global savings of up to $22 trillion, while sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions, alleviating poverty, and improving public health, says a new report out Tuesday from leading international economists.


That "model city" depicted in this article is absolutely NOT what a low-carbon, not to mention human-scaled and livable city, would look like! Here are some suggestions of what it might look like:

It is certainly true that a walkable, transit-friendly low-carbon-footprint city needs to have a degree of density (expressed as floor-area ratio), but it is never necessary to build higher than 5 stories or so to achieve this density,


Good work, Yunzer.


I found it telling that no mention was made to full commitment to education, which has been known to promote a gently declining population for over a century.

A gradually declining population with education connecting excess consumption to environmental damage would reduce stress on the environment and eventually restore Earth to full bounty shared by all life forms.


Yes we need Green villages neither 1 story strip malls nor gigantic skyscrapers. My own
Transit Village has 2-3 story houses close together with very small yards but big public spaces, walkable, many trees and our own school, library, post office, performance space, grocery story, 6 restaurants and the train station all within walking distance.
I tried to point out to New Jersey transit that we ARE the Transit village from the 19th century and a model for the 21st century!
After constant haranguing we have managed to hold on and even slightly extend the
number of trains stopping at our station but it is an endless battle still with some 3 hour gaps in service.
If New Jersey Transit actually ran trains every 20-30 minutes on the Rail lines already running we could get very many places without driving... But under Gov Christie forget it!


While the concept of a low carbon and user friendly city is a valid and worthwhile goal, to throw in utterly ridiculous figures of 22 trillion dollars in savings without one single indication of how such an astronomical amount could possibly apply, smack as the grounds for another massive contrick in the making. If there was anyway such a monetary benefit could be achieved, then surely corporate America would be into it up to their eyeballs.
Unfortunately, throwing around those sorts of figures as some type of lure to attract the "suckers" and not relating the figures to either the number of cities involved, or a time frame, or even if they are talking about one nation or all the nations involved in this imaginary pipe dream, is clear proof that this is exactly that - a pipe dream.


Living in a city is sustainable?..... Maybe, its the rural areas and the suburbs, that are sustainable, not in today's economy, but the kind of economy we should have. Cottage industry, with agriculture, bringing the food in from the outside. The suburbs can grow a decent amount of their own food, and have the fill in from the rural farms. I have just under two acres and I grow quite a bit of my food. Just had a salad tonight, with my own cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow and read and some green pepper. Put a little chees on top, with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I will add, that we are extremely low on groceries from the store, tonight, (only had a little cheese, shared with my husband). I am very glad, I have a garden, two big ones. If it wasn't for that, we would really not have much of anything to eat. I realize people are growing some food in urban areas, also. So, why is it that people cannot get out in their yards, in the suburbs and grow some food. Of course, some do, I'll bet. But more should. I think though that the problem is that they get home at say, 6:00 or 7:00 and when you have been sitting down at a desk all day, every day, it takes a lot to get your motor started. So, they need a bit of time (if older) to get out there and "do" .... I mean, there are days, when I get home and I am "stale". I feel like I have been laying in bed all day from sitting. By the time get going it's late. In the beginning of the season, that's not so bad. IT stays light til round 9:30 in June, here in the Southern Tier. But, later, when you have to keep weeding and then harvesting, its more difficult. Then, you need time to "do it up". So, what's the real problem? Well, the fact that people have to GO OUT TO WORK. They do not get to STAY HOME AND MAKE A SUSTAINABLE HOME.
Okay, well, I suppose you have to have SOME people going out to work. I mean, NOW we have those stupid Nuclear power plants that SOMEBODY has to take care of. Also, we would want some health care. But there are only a few other professions that are necessary. ADVERTISING ISN'T, so that could go.
I'll end with this. Until we STOP pretending that we can fix this by just developing a new supply of energy, we are going to cook. When we realize that THE WHOLE SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE TURNED UP SIDE DOWN AND .....AND we begin to do this NOW, RIGHT NOW... then, we might not loose so many people down the road. As it is, we will still be loosing a lot. Who thinks they're going to make it.?


I also think that the main reason the "urban way of life" is pushed so much, is because, most of the people there end of working for someone else. Where as if you have your own little plot/farm and/or cottage industry you work for yourself and you are more independent, in the sense that some employer/corporation doesn't control you. So, therefore, Urban is better for corporate life.


You mean where they work? Look in the middle picture (the view out the window where I used to live and made the mistake of moving out as Yuppie gentrification has made it too expensive to move back) . Downtown is sticking up behind the right side right of the wooded hill in the background, and Oakland - where the big Universities are, is to the left of the hill (the tall structure in the distance being U. of Pittsburgh's "Cathedral of Learning". In the upper picture, all the area of the "flats" around the Ukrainian Orthodox church steeple (they make the best Pierogies in the "Burgh)' is a commercial district known for its endless bars and taverns.

That "sim-city" illustration is problematic in that it is both full of inhospitable tall buildings (and many of them are presumably residential condos) while at the same time, they STILL manage to make it totally sprawling and totally walking-unfriendly - can you even imagine wanting to walk anywhere in that sterile "fantasy-city"? In contrast, the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of my pictures positively invite walking down its narrow streets and hillside stairways. Since moving to a generic suburb just few miles away, I am going out on walks much less.


I appreciate your comments. Question; places like Mexico City and Sao Paulo have 30 million to 40 million people living in them. How could such numbers be accomodated in a sensible area without going high-rise? It's something I have never given much thought to.


I think one problem is that most USAns, if they haven't traveled to Europe and a very few urban spaces in the USA (some of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods being one of those places) tend to confuse the urban with the suburban. Most of the sidewalk-level businesses in the urban spaces I depicted above are small family businesses. And farmers markets are in almost every neighborhood with food grown typically within 15-20 miles away - some of it in the city itself. I never see such things in suburban or rural areas. In fact I never saw a real farmers market or public market or even a family-owned Italian grocery or Jewish deli at all until I moved to the city.


I suspect that in many cases the densest neighborhoods in Ciudad Mexico or Sao Paulo are already those without the high-rise condos - the trouble is - they also have poor public services, dilapidated houses ans shanties and the like - but they don't have to be like that.

Amazingly, the dense neighborhood in the middle picture of my post has also been the quietest neighborhood I've ever lived in. The loudest noise was often kids playing.


Most commenters except one spoke of efficient use of space, walkable distances and 5 stories (the non elevator limit to height). The essence of a future city would have to be it's energy requirements. An office building with a solar skin, solar windows and a wind turbine (perhaps accentuated by an architectural design that directed winds/updraft to maximize energy production) would certainly produce enough energy for elevators or escalators. Moving walkways can be designed to spiral up and complete the loop going down. Multi-level designs instead of suburban sprawl. Streets covered by solar awnings, in fact all surfaces could be made solar and not just sunlight solar but photon activated using light from any source. Photovoltaic walls and floors indoors recapture indoor light energy. None of it would look like solar cells do now. Solar paint is in the works now. Flexible even solar clothing is too. It isn't your grandfather's solar anymore said grandpa and he was right about that too!

An apartment building with 50 stories actually has a small footprint physically but it needs a lot of energy. A solar/wind operated apartment building - a solar/wind city - will be the future if we live that long.

Don't vote republican - climate change deniers are fatalists...

..without any future...



I agree that $22 trillion is a huge sum to wrap your head around. But there are huge savings for cities who take a green route. Here’s an interview originally published in Grist with Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City who implemented a green program about a decade ago that has saved the city millions of dollars.

The program focused on city operations only, and included efforts to get businesses and individuals involved in green practices. They replaced light bulbs with LEDs and CFLs, retrofitted buildings, enacted building codes for city buildings requiring LEED certification, and installed methane capture plants at the sewer treatment plant. Light rail contributes to carbon savings as well, and free cycling is part of the transportation mix in the downtown area. Salt Lake City met (and surpassed) its carbon reduction goals and recouped its original investment years ahead of the stated timeframe of the program.

If every city implemented a program of this nature, massive savings could be achieved. Could it amount to trillions? Perhaps, especially if health costs related to air quality are factored in, along with the economic development surrounding increased demands for low-carbon alternatives, and most definitely if they keep counting the savings year after year after year. Since the date of this interview, Salt Lake City has likely doubled its savings while continuing to cut its carbon footprint. Even if it doesn't save $trillions, greening our cities would save huge sums, enough to cover the original investments and then some. But more importantly, it would significantly cut carbon emissions, which is the best reason to implement these programs.