WorldChanging on Growing Cooler

Alex Steffen over at picked up on Growing Cooler in a fantastic recent essay on climate change called “My Other Car is a Bright Green City.”

Sprawled-out land uses generate enormous amounts of automotive greenhouse gases. A recent major study, Growing Cooler, makes the point clearly: if 60 percent of new developments were even modestly more compact, we’d emit 85 million fewer metric tons of tailpipe CO2 each year by 2030 — as much as would be saved by raising the national mileage standards to 32 mpg.

In other words, there is a direct relationship between the kinds of places we live, the transportation choices we have, and how much we drive. The best car-related innovation we have is not to improve the car, but eliminate the need to drive it everywhere we go.

Actually, both are part of the solution. Because while we’re recreating our built environment over the next 30 years, a lot of people are going to be driving something — and the more efficient, the better. But if you pair that pursuit of fuel efficiency and emissions reduction with investments in the kind of walkable, accessible neighborhoods that result in less-driving, then you’re really starting to make an impact. It’s all about the three-legged stool.

So what are the hopes of building more of these places where people tend to drive less? Alex responds:

…We’re getting better and better at designing density that works. We’re finally rediscovering the art of placemaking, learning to build dense communities with plenty of open space, welcoming public places, thriving neighborhood retail and a tangible sense of place…In other words, we know that density reduces driving. We know that we’re capable of building really dense new neighborhoods and even of using good design, infill development and infrastructure investments to transform existing medium-low density neighborhoods into walkable compact communities.

Creating communities dense enough to save those 85 million metric tons of tailpipe emissions is (politics aside) easy. It is within our power to go much farther: to build whole metropolitan regions where the vast majority of residents live in communities that eliminate the need for daily driving, and make it possible for many people to live without private cars altogether.

h/t to our Benjamin Delapena and CEO’s for Cities