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When green ‘fixes’ actually increase the carbon footprint

March 13, 2019

By Michael W. Berger : penntoday – excerpt

When a big technology company moves to town, it often promises eco-friendly infrastructure and encourages a sustainability ethos to go along with it.

That was the idea when Amazon announced plans to bring its headquarters to Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood a decade ago. It coincided with low-carbon investments the area had already been making—a new light rail between downtown and the airport, more protected bike lanes—and the company’s desire to promote a climate-friendly lifestyle…

“There’s clear evidence that the arrival of tech companies is causing a significant migration of lower-income and non-white populations out of urban cores where firms locate. Then more affluent residents are taking their place,” says Cohen, an assistant professor and member of the Population Studies Center (PSC) at Penn. “From the carbon analysis so far, when density results from more high-income residents, the low-carbon benefits of that density get wiped out. We believe the carbon emissions in these neighborhoods are staying the same or increasing.”

Residential density—in this context the concentration of people—living near mass transit can play an important role in lowering carbon emissions. “The core issue is what kindof density,” Cohen says. “The data are telling us that the kind led by tech companies and tech workers causes social displacement and has no climate benefit. On the other hand, density anchored by affordable housing would yield climate and social benefits at the same time. And it could be pursued all across urban and suburban areas, led by public planning and public investment.”…

Daniel Aldana Cohen is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Penn and a member of the Population Studies Center…(more)

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