A new study says greenhouse gas emissions of large cities are far below those of rural areas, which means city dwellers harm climate less.
According to a report in New Scientist, David Dodman at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London, who led the study, said previous claims that cities contribute disproportionately to global climate change are unfounded.
"Historically, people have associated pollution and environmental damage with cities and, as far as climate warming goes, it is true that urban areas have large energy consumption," he said.
"But, many emissions come from rural areas, and methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide," he added.
To discover just how bad city life is for the climate, Dodman compared greenhouse gas emissions in 12 large cities around the world with the average emissions of their respective countries.
He found that, on average, city dwellers emit fewer greenhouse gases than the average for their country.
In terms of per-capita emissions, the most environmentally unfriendly city of those studied is Washington, DC.
With 19.7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per head, the carbon footprint of each citizen there is nearly three times that of other large cities in developed nations. Dodman blames this on the amount of office space in the city.
However, residents of DC still emit only 82.4 percent of the US average.
This holds true for other wealthy cities. Per capita emissions in New York, Toronto and Barcelona are only a third of their national average, and the emissions of Tokyo, London and Seoul come in at about half of their countries' level.
"There are density-related advantages for both travel and heating," said Dodman. "When you have a critical mass of people like in London or New York, public transport becomes a feasible option for many, while people in more rural areas rely more on cars. And a flat that is surrounded by others is more efficient to heat than a free-standing house," he added.
According to Dodman, despite comparing well to their nations' average carbon footprint, western cities have room for plenty of improvement.
In the list of top climate offenders, their emissions still dwarf those from cities in developing nations.