In summary

After the pandemic is over, public policy should focus on reducing vehicle miles driven to impact climate change.

By Zack Subin, San Francisco

Zack Subin is with Urban Environmentalists in San Francisco.

Re “How the remote work revolution could change California’s housing crisis”; December 21, 2020

It is premature and risky to assume that remote work will be a net benefit to climate without tailored policies. If people with the option to work remotely move to more car-dependent areas, the outcome could very well be increased climate pollution. 

The article mentioned the potential for increased energy use from larger homes, but this is only one way that increased remote work could worsen climate impacts. Non-commute trips, which already represent the majority of car travel, could increase further along with car ownership. More cars and bigger houses would mean more manufacturing and materials emissions. Increased sprawl fragments natural lands and increases wildfire risk. Including lifecycle emissions occurring out of state, suburban households can have up to twice the carbon footprint: commute trips are a minor factor in this difference.

Once the pandemic is over, policy should focus on reducing vehicle miles by providing transportation and housing options, not by incentivizing people to stay in their homes.

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