Estimating Residential Carbon Footprints for an American City
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Estimating Residential Carbon Footprints for an American City

Matthew H. Connolly (Department of Geography, Texas State University - San Marcos, San Marcos, TX, USA), Ronald R. Hagelman (Department of Geography, Texas State University - San Marcos, San Marcos, TX, USA) and Sven Fuhrmann (Department of Geography, Texas State University - San Marcos, San Marcos, TX, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/jagr.2012100106
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Abstract

The proliferation of online emission calculators and the growing popularity of carbon footprint assessments recently underscores an emerging interest among Americans in understanding their personal environmental impacts, especially in relation to greenhouse gas emissions. While studies have quantified carbon footprints at a variety of geographic scales using economic data, or a combination of economic and census data, few have produced results that were immediately useful for local-scale emission reduction efforts. The authors explore the feasibility of utilizing block group level census data to estimate the residential carbon footprint of an American city. A census-based emission model was adapted from the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Individual Emission Calculator. Block group census data were used as surrogates for household energy consumption and transportation related carbon emissions. Although lacking some of the finer nuances of individual behavior assessments, this approach enables analysis of a continuous urban landscape with a relatively high degree of data resolution using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and standard desktop-software. The model output, paired with choropleth and dasymetric visualizations, illustrate that census data can be successfully adapted to estimate the residential carbon footprint for Austin, Texas, and by extension, any other American city with equivalent census data coverage.
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Challenges In Carbon Foot Printing

In the face of the concern about climate change, environmentally conscious individuals have expressed a growing interest in mitigating their contribution to global carbon emissions, or their ‘carbon footprint.’ The recent proliferation of online emissions calculators developed by a variety of government agencies and non-profit organizations underscores this interest in personal carbon emission reduction (Padgett et al., 2008). Since its inception, the term ‘carbon footprint’ has evoked a wide variety of responses from the general public, policy makers, and the scientific community. This has left many uncertain about what a ‘carbon footprint’ actually is, or how it should be used (Wiedman & Minx, 2007). This confusion is likely due to the lack of consensus on a formal definition and method for calculating the figure.

Awards

  • IGI Global’s Sixth Annual Excellence in Research Journal Awards
    IGI Global’s Sixth Annual Excellence in Research Journal AwardsHonoring outstanding scholarship and innovative research within IGI Global's prestigious journal collection, the Sixth Annual Excellence in Research Journal Awards brings attention to the scholars behind the best work from the 2013 copyright year.

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