Reducing emissions block by block

washington post growing cooler graphicWhile we hope that Congress passes a global warming bill with a hard cap on emissions (cap-and-trade) to limit our overall emissions and incentivize even more reductions, people are beginning to realize that much of the power and leadership required to fight global warming will come at the state, regional, and local level.

Consider this story in the Washington Post over the weekend, that you might have seen in your hometown newspaper as well. It went out over the Post’s syndication service and was picked up by at least a dozen major daily newspapers across the country.

The story notes the message at the core of Growing Cooler (and recreates a key graphic from GC pictured at left): Savings from increases in fuel efficiency will be virtually wiped out by the growing amount of driving everyone has to do. Therefore, we need to invest in a pattern of growth that actually results in less driving, without having to rely on restrictions or regulations for force people “out of their cars.”

People who live in more compact, walkable communities with access to public transportation drive less across the board:

[Growing Cooler author Reid] Ewing has calculated that residents of Atlanta and Raleigh drive more than 30 miles a day per person, while Boston and Portland, Ore., residents drive less than 24 miles a day in their more compact cities. More compact development could cut the U.S. transportation sector’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 7 to 10 percent, Ewing and his co-authors write in their new book, “Growing Cooler.”

The story chronicles efforts by leaders at the state level and on down to make fundamental changes in our land use patterns to reduce future emissions. California Attorney General Jerry Brown is noted for his lawsuits he’s filed against San Bernardino County for failing to consider climate impacts of new proposed developments.

Brown, however, acknowledges that government alone cannot change where Americans decide to live and work. “It really takes a sea change in attitude, a shift in how the urban and suburban are perceived,” he said in an interview. “It’s not something that government can just mandate without a change in how the public views it. You can’t just order it into being.”

But he fails to grasp the fact that the market is beginning to shift.

According to the data compiled in Growing Cooler and evidenced by real estate markets all across the country, walkability and access to other modes of transportation are fast becoming the new touchstones of “location” as people decide where to live. And with gas prices continuing their upward growth, (a spike is temporary, and this is no spike!) more people everyday are going to be looking to live in places where gas prices can’t hold them hostage.

Read Fighting Global Warming, Block by Block in the Washington Post