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Homes of wealthy Americans have carbon footprints 25% higher than lower-income residences

The homes of wealthy Americans generate about 25% more greenhouse gases than residences in lower-income neighborhoods, mainly due to their larger size. In the nation's most affluent suburbs, those emissions can be as much as 15 times higher than in nearby lower-income neighborhoods.

Those estimates come from a new University of Michigan study of 93 million American homes. It is the most comprehensive study of U.S. residential greenhouse gas emissions, according to the authors, and the first to provide nationwide rankings by state and zip code. It is also the first nationwide study to find correlations between affluence, residential floor space and greenhouse gas emissions, they say.

In addition, the U-M researchers determined that the U.S. residential housing sector won't be able to meet the Paris climate agreement's 2050 emissions-reduction targets solely by phasing out fossil fuels in electricity generation. In-home fuel burning and electricity consumption must also be reduced. New homes will have to be smaller, and denser settlement patterns will be needed.

A paper summarizing the study's findings is scheduled for publication July 20 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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