There’s something a bit sad about the fact that Ryan Avent had to go through the trouble to write a long, detailed explanation of why Joel Kotkin and Ali Moderres are wrong and residents of dense cities are, in fact, responsible for less carbon emissions than are residents of far-flung exurbs. Smaller houses + shorter distances between things + more alternatives to driving + economies of scale in heating/cooling/etc. large structures = less carbon. Why The Washington Post decided it would be “provocative” (or something) to argue otherwise is a bit beyond me.
It is, however, always worth pointing out that this sort of discussion is a bit useless. What we need to do is put a price on carbon emissions, either through a tax or auctioned emissions permits. Then we can let the miracle of prices and markets do its work and not worry about personally trying to calculate the carbon implications of each and every life choice. Meanwhile, contrary to Kotkin’s ceaseless campaign to convince us that people don’t want to live in cities, even now it’s the case that real estate in big cities is famously expensive. If we price carbon correctly and deregulate, making it easier for people to build and live where they like, I think there’s every reason to believe we’ll wind up with more city-dwellers.