Scaling back urban sprawl could reduce carbon emissions released by communities throughout the Northeast, according to research done in part by New York scientists and engineers.
The study is by Hubbard Brooks Research Foundation and focused on nine counties, including Tompkins County in New York.
It found that a reduction in sprawl limits emissions from the first step of development onward by preventing the release of the carbon in vegetation when land is first cleared.
"So if you can work on redeveloping previously developed land, and think about land development smartly to try and minimize disturbance, that’s greatly going to reduce the carbon footprint," says Syracuse University professor Charles Driscoll, who co-wrote the study.
Driscoll and his colleagues also examined the potential cost to communities of reducing future emissions. Their findings suggest that rural communities will have an easier time than larger, more built-up ones.
But that doesn't mean it would be an easy task out where they're known for their "fresh air" - urban areas do emit more carbon, but per capita emissions are higher in rural areas.
Better public transportation is a main reason for that difference, says Driscoll.
"When you have places with high population density, there are great opportunities for doing things more efficiently," says Driscoll.