A new Brookings Institution report, ranking the U.S.’ 100 largest metropolitan areas in terms of their “carbon footprint,” may offer a peg for reporters and editors wanting to localize the climate change impacts story.

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Brookings ranks U.S.’ 100 largest metro areas in terms of their ‘carbon footprint’.

Not surprisingly, the study reports that high-density areas with compact development and effective rail transit generally are more carbon-efficient than “sprawling, auto-centric areas.” It says people living in large metropolitan areas have a 14 percent smaller carbon footprint than average and that the increase in their carbon footprint has increased only half of that of the average American.

The Brookings study emphasizes that the findings do not undercut the importance of metropolitan areas when it comes to reducing carbon emissions, since two-thirds of Americans live in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas and since most greenhouse gas emissions come from those areas.

“For that reason,” said Brookings’s Bruce Katz, “metropolitan America will play a major role in the nation’s push to restrain its emissions. Fortunately, many metro areas offer major advantages for doing that.”

The “Shrinking the Carbon Footprint of Metropolitan America” study lists Lexington-Fayette, Ky., as the metropolitan area having the largest carbon footprint, followed by Indianapolis, In. As for the large metro areas with the smallest carbon footprints, Honolulu, Hi, comes in first, followed – ready for this? – by Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Ca. The report says that the average resident in Lexington in 2005 emitted 2.5 times more carbon from transport and homes than the average resident in Honolulu. It points to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Atlanta as having high rail transit ridership numbers but also larger than average carbon footprints. Most of the large carbon emitters are in the eastern U.S., with large metro areas in the west having most of the metro areas with smaller per capita carbon footprints.

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