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Report: Austin Has Highest 5th Greenhouse Gas Emissions In US [Corrected]

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Correction: The National Geographic report cited in this story erroneously listed Austin as the having the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the United States.  In fact, Austin has the fifth highest rate of the 19 cities listed. We regret the error. You can view the complete study here.

Original report: After months of lists declaring Austin the best city to find a job, spend money on food, listen to live rock, and turn a profit on your home, we've received a much less celebrated designation.National Geographic reports on a new study that finds Austin to be the largest greenhouse gas emitter of any US city surveyed: about 24 tons per person annually.

Most of those emissions are due to transportation used by Austin's residents and energy used to heat, cool, and power the city's buildings. The authors say the new study debunks the conventional wisdom that developing nations such as China have cities with the worst carbon footprints. In fact, the opposite is true when carbon footprints are viewed in terms of emissions per person, which gives high density cities such as Beijing an advantage.

In a news release accompanying the report, the lead author says their research debunks the argument that cities, by themselves, are bad for the environment.

"Cities worldwide are blamed for most greenhouse gas emissions but many cities have very low emissions, as do many city dwellers in even the most industrialised countries," says lead author Daniel Hoornweg, lead urban specialist on Cities and Climate Change at the World Bank. "Differences in production and consumption patterns between cities and citizens mean that it is not helpful to attribute emissions to cities as a whole. Policymakers need a better understanding of the sources of emissions if they are to develop real solutions."

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.