A new paper published in PNAS details a long-term study of carbon dioxide levels in Salt Lake City, Utah. Salt Lake City is unique in that it has an extensive network of CO2 monitors in place since 2004. Other cities such as Pasadena, California and Heidelberg, Germany for the last 10 years also have CO2 monitoring projects that include only one site in each city. Salt Lake City’s large network includes stations in the surrounding countryside for rural “control” measurements. This allows researchers to analyze CO2 concentrations over time and space with much finer granularity.
One of the great takeaways from this study is that over time the development of urban sprawl will have a large effect on CO2 emissions. The researchers found increasing emissions was dependent on population density, particularly in rural areas. This is due to things like increased on-road emissions from vehicles. Urban and established suburban areas also saw population growth, but an increase in emissions wasn’t as high as the growth in population relative to rural areas. The findings of a growing population can lead to increase CO2 emissions is not groundbreaking, but it does illustrate how CO2 monitoring, on a more granular scale, can provide important data about CO2 emissions in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Monitoring allows for a more target approach that can help reduce the CO2 emissions more efficiently, cheaply, and quickly.