Climatic Change

, Volume 121, Issue 4, pp 621–634 | Cite as

The geography of global urban greenhouse gas emissions: an exploratory analysis

  • Peter John Marcotullio
  • Andrea Sarzynski
  • Jochen Albrecht
  • Niels Schulz
  • Jake Garcia


The purpose of this paper is to describe global urban greenhouse gas emissions by region and sector, examine the distribution of emissions through the urban-to-rural gradient, and identify covariates of emission levels for our baseline year, 2000. We use multiple existing spatial databases to identify urban extent, greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, N2O, CH4 and SF6) and covariates of emissions in a “top-down” analysis. The results indicate that urban activities are significant sources of total greenhouse gas emissions (36.8 and 48.6 % of total). The urban energy sector accounts for between 41.5 and 66.3 % of total energy emissions. Significant differences exist in the urban share of greenhouse gas emissions between developed and developing countries as well as among source sectors for geographic regions. The 50 largest urban emitting areas account for 38.8 % of all urban greenhouse gas emissions. We find that greenhouse gas emissions are significantly associated with population size, density, growth rates, and per capita income. Finally, comparison of our results to “bottom-up” estimates suggest that this research’s data and techniques are best used at the regional and global scales.



This research is part of a study entitled, ‘Ecosystem Services for an Urbanizing Planet, What 2 billion new urbanites means for air and water,’ financed by a grant from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS project 12455) and The Nature Conservancy. Three reviewers carefully read drafts of the document and provided many questions, comments and suggestions that greatly improved the paper. We also thank the large number of people that provided feedback during the research and writing of this paper, including Karen Seto, Deborah Balk, William Solecki and Robert McDonald, among others. The authors are responsible for any mistakes, miscalculations, and misinterpretations.

Supplementary material

10584_2013_977_MOESM1_ESM.doc (1.1 mb)
ESM 1(DOC 1.09 MB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter John Marcotullio
    • 1
  • Andrea Sarzynski
    • 2
  • Jochen Albrecht
    • 1
  • Niels Schulz
    • 3
  • Jake Garcia
    • 1
  1. 1.Hunter CollegeCUNYNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.School of Public Policy & AdministrationUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  3. 3.International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)LaxenburgAustria

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