Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Rise of the Low Carbon Consumer City

Matt Kahn and I just released an NBER working paper.  You can find an ungated version here.  Here is the abstract:
Urban density both facilitates consumption opportunities and encourages individuals to drive less and walk and use public transit more. Using several data sets, we document that high quality of life consumer center cities are low carbon cities. We discuss possible causal channels for this association.

This paper builds off of a report we wrote last year for the Mineta Transportation Institute (but all of the analysis and writing is completely new!)  In our MTI report we spent more time talking about the policy recommendations based on this work, and these would apply to our new paper as well.  These were:
1. Rethink current land-use regulations,
2. Continue investments to reduce center city crime, and
3. Increase local public school quality.
 The MTI report elaborated on each of these (see pp. 67-69), but note that none of these are obvious.  Fighting crime and improving teaching mitigates climate change!  In short, if cities are places where people want to be, then people will drive less and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.