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The “Development” of Land Often Means Destruction of the Environment by Tim Martin

Posted by: | May 10, 2014 Comments Off on The “Development” of Land Often Means Destruction of the Environment by Tim Martin |

Sprawl and the Negative Effects of Land Use Conversion

Often overlooked in the climate change mitigation debate is the contribution of land use practices to atmospheric GHG levels. Natural lands such as forests, wetlands, grasslands, and farmland act as a “sink” that sequester carbon dioxide. The conversion of these areas into plots, buildings, and infrastructure reduces the amount of carbon dioxide the earth can absorb. Carbon dioxide sinks play a significant role in climate regulation, as vegetation and climate-friendly land use management sequestered enough carbon dioxide to offset 15% of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2012.

In addition to destroying sinks, the “development” of natural areas for residential, commercial, or industrial use increases GHG emissions. (Unfortunately, the use of the term development for new buildings and infrastructure implies a positive outcome, ignoring the destruction of natural land.) The residential and commercial building sector directly contributed 10% of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2012, primarily due to the combustion of natural gas for heat. Combining direct emissions with electricity use in this sector rockets the total contribution to U.S. GHG emissions from 10% to 33%. These figures do not include the energy used in the processing of raw materials or the construction process. Additionally, the increase in vehicle miles traveled due to expanding suburban sprawl exacerbates climate change. The transportation sector by itself contributed 28% of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2012. Thus, the suburban sprawl that has seeming taken over America is an unsustainable way of living and organizing our communities.

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under: Climate Change, Land Use
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