American Cities Are Underestimating Their GHG Emissions

American Cities Are Underestimating Their GHG Emissions giving compass
Giving Compass' Take:
  • Cailin Crowe shares the results of a report suggesting that cities in the United States are unintentionally underestimating their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • What is the importance of accurate data on greenhouse gas emissions? How can private citizens and philanthropy help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas?
  • Read about the highest-impact actions you can take to reduce your personal carbon footprint.

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A new study that suggests  hat U.S. cities are undercounting their emissions.

The study, published in the Nature Communications journal earlier this month, assessed the self-reported inventories of carbon dioxide in 48 cities, concluding that cities under-report emissions by an average of 18.3%. But as the media jumps to point fingers at cities, researchers and environmental advocates argue the blame shouldn't be placed locally.

Cities are responsible for about 75% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, yet they struggle to accurately report emissions due to a lack of guidance and resources, said Kimberly Mueller, study co-author and scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). She said inaccuracies are likely not due to any "nefarious" reporting, but recognized it can be an "onerous task."

Looking ahead, emissions tracking could be taken out of the hands of cities as the costs are currently too prohibitive, according to Mueller.

A Brookings Institution report from October 2020, which assessed the local climate action plans, highlighted similar findings to the researchers in Nature Communications. Brookings voiced skepticism about the efficacy of relying on "city pledges" over national regulations for GHG emissions reduction.

The "emissions-pledge system" is well-intentioned, but ultimately broken, the Brookings researchers said.

Read the full article about urban emissions reporting by Cailin Crowe at Smart Cities Dive.

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