THEGREENGROK    Statistically Speaking

Statistical Grok: A Tale of Two Cities: New York Vs. Hong Kong

by Bill Chameides | August 15th, 2008
posted by Wendy Graber (Researcher)

Permalink | 4 comments




New York City Hong Kong
Land area (square miles) 469 426
Population 8,274,527 6,963,100
Population density (people per sq mi) 17,647 16,345
“Real feel” population density (people per sq mi)* 28,923 81,727
Life expectancy (years) 81.1 female 84 female
75.7 male 78 male
Air quality (number of days that exceed AQI/API)** 12 49
Air pollutants (2002)
     Sulfur dioxide, SO4 (metric tons) 30,147 67,600
     Nitrogen oxides, NOx (metric tons) 126,786 86,500
Primary electricity sources***
     Coal 15% 37%
     Oil 5% 48%
     Gas 29% 12%
     Nuclear 30% 0%
     Hydro 18% 0%
     Other renewables 3% < 1%
Per capita greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) (metric tons)**** 7.1 5.5
Percent world’s GHG emissions 0.25% 0.1%



*Total land area minus water and undeveloped area.

**Air quality ranking systems in the US (AQI) and Hong Kong (API) use a similar scale but examine different pollutants.
***Electricity breakdown is for all of New York State.
****Average U.S. per capita GHG emissions are 24.5 metric tons.


New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, December 20, 2006

New York City Department of Environmental Protection, A Report Based on the Ongoing Work of the DEP Climate Change Task Force; May 2008, Report 1 –

United Nations Development Program, Human Development Reports, 2007/2008 Report –

New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hong Kong Review, May/June 2007 –

Environmental Protection Agency –

Environmental Protection Department, Hong Kong Air Pollutant Emission Inventory –

Edison Electric Institute –

New York Department of Environmental Conservation, NYSIP for PM2.5 (Annual NAAQS) Attainment Demonstration for the NY Metro Area – Draft Proposal, Appendix E –

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  1. Daniel Wedgewood
    Aug 15, 2008

    Hi Wendy & Erica, The difference in life expentancies is smaller than I expected – do you suppose that is due to pollution, health care, and/or dietary habits? The distribution of electric sources for New York also seems more encouraging than for Hong Kong. Does New York greater have greater GHG emissions (compared to Hong Kong) mostly due to a higher number of automobiles, or is it because of other factors? I was very surprised that New York has a third of the average GHG emissions for the U.S. Is that due to some structural advantages of cities over rural areas? Or is it just New York and its environmental policies? What reasons led you to compare New York and Hong Kong? Why not Hong Kong and Los Angeles? Or Tokyo and New York? Thanks – Dan” title=”Good Comparison

    • wendy graber
      Aug 16, 2008

      Hi Dan–Wendy here, With our main Grokker in Hong Kong for the week, the Grok team thought we would bring that city a little closer to home and what better way to do that than to compare it to a similarly sized American city. I must say that even though we chose New York City because of its urban density and similar population size, we found some of the similarities between the cities to be quite striking as well. Of course, there are many more statistical comparisons that can be made by checking out the source list. In general, the per capita GHG emissions for NYC are lower than the national average because of its population density, which translates into less overall building footage and less vehicles. Heating and cooling our buildings is one of the main sources of GHG. With that said, even though NYC has a smaller per capita GHG footprint than the U.S. average, NYC still has more NOx pollution as a result of our greater reliance on gas-powered vehicles as compared to Hong Kong. ” title=”…and surprising too.

      • Michael
        Aug 19, 2008

        GHG measurements don’t take into account the emissions required to extract, alter, and transport resources. So NYC has less GHG that other places in the US because of population density, but what about all those sky scrapers? I assume that most of the emissions that went into making those tall buildings are recorded elsewhere. Perhaps the current way to measure and assess GHG is a little myopic. ” title=”GHG, Resources, and Production

        • wendy
          Aug 19, 2008

          Michael, I couldn’t agree more that looking at just direct emissions is a bit myopic. A more accurate measure would be to look at life cycle emissions. If we use buildings as an example, this measure would include not only the emissions from the fuel used to power a building but the emissions embedded in all the materials used to construct the building, maintain it and dispose of it at the end of its life. I’m not sure how many of NYC’s skyscrapers have been studied in this way, but more and more folks are talking about emissions in these terms. You are also right that more of NYC’s direct GHG emissions are related to buildings than the national average. In 2005, buildings accounted for 79% of the city’s GHG emissions compared to the national average of 34%. ” title=”Myopic–to be sure.

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