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Carbon footprint varies by location, income

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What is your carbon footprint? Like the real estate slogan, it depends on location, location, location.

For a single-person household earning less than $10,000, living in California, the annual carbon footprint is about 16 tons of greenhouse gasses. But for a couple earning $90,000 living in the Bay Area, it's about 57 tons annually. That is almost the same as a family of five living in St. Louis, with half of the annual income.

 
Research by UC Berkeley Professor Dan Kammen and Ph.D candidate Chris Jones, recently published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, looks at the complete "life cycle" impact of carbon footprints in 28 cities, for six household sizes and 12 income brackets.
 
"The idea of a sustainability footprint, they are not analytically all that difficult to do," Kammen said. "Doing the math is not hard. What is tricky is whether it is accurate or consistent."
 
Their research has spawned CoolCalifornia.org, a website that allows you to calculate your own footprint and compare it to your peers, others who live in your city or attend your university. The site is intended to show where most of the greenhouse gas emissions come from, and identify the activities that will have the greatest impact in reducing this type of pollution. 
 
The state's Air Resources Board has adopted the tool as part of its strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in compliance with the Global Warming Solutions Act, known as AB32. The 2006 law aims to reduce these emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2020.
 
While carbon calculators have been circulating on the Internet for a few years, this is one of the first to be peer-reviewed and published in a leading academic journal, Jones said. In addition, this calculator is comprehensive: It includes estimates for food, energy, waste, water and transportation. 
 
"Our tool has been continuously developed since 2005, and we are constantly improving and refining the data and enhancing the tool," Jones said, noting the data is open-source, adding another level of transparency. 
 
Providing comparisons based on a user's location and household income is unique too.
 
"Frankly, people don't know about how many miles they drive a year, so the benchmark profiles are really useful," he said.  
 
California's carbon footprint from electricity is much lower than many states, in part because of how little coal we use, compared to others, like Missouri. This means that other items, such as clothing and airline travel, actually make up a larger portion of the total carbon footprint than residential electricity use. Because clothing is a manufactured product, often made elsewhere and imported into the state, it has a larger contribution to California's carbon footprint than household electricity, Kammen noted. 
 
"As far as airline miles are concerned, it's really the affluence effect," he said. The more money you make, the more likely you are to take ski trips, vacations and flights, Kammen said.
 
While Jones continues his doctoral research, he works with cities like Davis, trying to get residents to track and reduce their carbon footprint. The Cool Davis initiative began with 100 participants, including all City Council members, students and university leaders, with the goal of getting 75 percent of the city's approximately 60,000 residents to participate. When you are working with policy makers, Jones said, it's important to identify what has the greatest impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions for your community.
 
So for those in the Golden State, switching to a more fuel-efficient vehicle would have a greater impact than installing solar panels. For example, the savings from improving the fuel efficiency of one household's vehicles from 20 to 25 miles per gallon is the equivalent of eliminating all of the carbon emissions generated annually from that single household's electricity usage.
 
By purchasing a more fuel-efficient car, a person can influence others because that is perceived as a good lifestyle choice, Jones said. 
 
"Buying a hybrid isn't a great financial decision, but it does send a signal to your peers you care about the environment," he said. 
 
The calculator was featured Wednesday evening on the PBS show Nova. It included a demonstration of one household's carbon footprint, with a cameo appearance by Kammen's young daughters.
 
While the launch of this tool is currently California-centric, these types of forward-thinking policy measures are noticed around the world, Kammen said. At a recent meeting of Clean Energy Ministers in Abu Dhabi, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist said that dignitaries applauded the progress that California is making in this arena. He attended as a representative from the World Bank, where he is working as a consultant during his leave from the university.
"Time after time they said how this could be adapted to our use in India, in South Africa, which highlights the value of and need for these best practices that could be shared," Kammen said. "The (Cool California) tool is very much that thing—it's open source on web, to make those comparisons across communities."Sarah Terry-Cobo
 
What is your carbon footprint? Like the real estate slogan, it depends on location, location, location. For a single-person household earning less than $10,000, living in California, the annual carbon footprint is about 16 tons of greenhouse gasses. But for a couple earning $90,000 living in the Bay Area, it's about 57 tons annually. That is almost the same as a family of five living in St. Louis, with half of the annual income.
 
Research by UC Berkeley Professor Dan Kammen and Ph.D candidate Chris Jones, recently published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, looks at the complete "life cycle" impact of carbon footprints in 28 cities, for six household sizes and 12 income brackets. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es102221h?prevSearch=%2528kammen%2529%2BAND%2B%255Bauthor%253A%2BKammen%252C%2BDaniel%2BM.%255D%2BNOT%2B%255Batype%253A%2Bad%255D%2BNOT%2B%255Batype%253A%2Bacs-toc%255D&searchHistoryKey=
 
"The idea of a sustainability footprint, they are not analytically all that difficult to do," Kammen said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "Doing the math is not hard, what is tricky is whether it is accurate or consistent," he continued from his office from his office in Washington D.C. Kammen is currently on leave from the university, consulting with the World Bank as a chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency. http://blogs.worldbank.org/climatechange/blogs/daniel-kammen
 
Their research has spawned CoolCalifornia.org, a website that allows you to calculate your own footprint and compare it to your peers, others who live in your city or attend your university. The site is intended to show where most of the greenhouse gas emissions come from, and identify the activities that will have the greatest impact in reducing this type of pollution. 
 
The state's Air Resources Board has adopted the tool as part of its strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in compliance with the Global Warming Solutions Act, known as AB32. The 2006 law aims to reduce these emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2020. http://coolcalifornia.org/about-us
 
And while carbon calculators have been circulating on the Internet for a few years, this is one of the first to be peer-reviewed and published in a leading academic journal, said Jones in a telephone interview. In addition, this calculator is comprehensive: including estimates for food, energy, waste, water and transportation. 
 
"Our tool has been continuously developed since 2005, and we are constantly improving and refining the data and enhancing the tool," Jones continued, noting the data is open-source, adding another level of transparency. 
 
Providing comparisons based on a user's location and household income is unique too. "Frankly, people don't know about how many miles they drive a year, so the benchmark profiles are really useful," he said.  
 
Because California has relatively clean electricity mix compared to other states, items such as clothing and airline travel actually make up a larger portion of the total carbon footprint than residential electricity use. Clothing is a manufactured product, which is why it has a larger contribution for this state, Kammen noted. 
 
"As far as airline miles are concerned, it's really the affluence affect," he continued. The more money you make, the more likely you are to take more ski trips, more vacations and more flights, Kammen said.
 
Jones continues his doctoral research, working with cities like Davis to use the calculator. The Cool Davis initiative began with 100 participants, including all city council members, students, university leaders, with the goal of reaching 75% of the city's some 60,000 residents. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0618100.html When you are working with policy makers, Jones said, it's important to identify what has the greatest impact.
 
So for those in the Golden State, switching to a more fuel-efficient vehicle would have a greater impact than installing solar panels. For example, the savings from better gas mileage—just five miles per gallon—is the equivalent of all the electricity generated for a single household. And these types of lower-carbon lifestyle choices are perceived as good—where driving a gas-guzzler is perceived as bad, Jones said. 
 
"Buying a hybrid isn't great financial decision, but it does send a signal to your peers you care about the environment."
 
He continued, "we can talk about footprints and responsibility, but we have a much bigger opportunity culturally. It's how you can engage with your peers and your community." 
 
The calculator was even featured Wednesday evening on the PBS show Nova, including a demonstration of one household's carbon footprint, with a cameo appearance by Kammen's young daughters. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/power-surge.html
 
<embed code>
 
While the launch of this tool is currently California-centric, these types of forward thinking policy measures are noticed around the world, Kammen said. 
 
At a recent meeting of Clean Energy Ministers in Abu Dhabi, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist said that dignitaries applauded the progress that California is making in this arena. He attended as a representative from the World Bank, not as a representative of the state. http://www.cleanenergyministerial.org/index.html
 
"Time after time they said how this could be adapted to our use in India, in South Africa, which highlights the value of and need for these best practices that could be shared," Kammen said. "The (Cool California) tool is very much that thing—it's open source on web, to make those comparisons across communities."CarbonFootprint_Location
By Sarah Terry-Cobo
 
What is your carbon footprint? Like the real estate slogan, it depends on location, location, location. For a single-person household earning less than $10,000, living in California, the annual carbon footprint is about 16 tons of greenhouse gasses. But for a couple earning $90,000 living in the Bay Area, it's about 57 tons annually. That is almost the same as a family of five living in St. Louis, with half of the annual income.
 
Research by UC Berkeley Professor Dan Kammen and Ph.D candidate Chris Jones, recently published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, looks at the complete "life cycle" impact of carbon footprints in 28 cities, for six household sizes and 12 income brackets. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es102221h?prevSearch=%2528kammen%2529%2BAND%2B%255Bauthor%253A%2BKammen%252C%2BDaniel%2BM.%255D%2BNOT%2B%255Batype%253A%2Bad%255D%2BNOT%2B%255Batype%253A%2Bacs-toc%255D&searchHistoryKey=
 
"The idea of a sustainability footprint, they are not analytically all that difficult to do," Kammen said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "Doing the math is not hard, what is tricky is whether it is accurate or consistent," he continued from his office from his office in Washington D.C. Kammen is currently on leave from the university, consulting with the World Bank as a chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency. http://blogs.worldbank.org/climatechange/blogs/daniel-kammen
 
Their research has spawned CoolCalifornia.org, a website that allows you to calculate your own footprint and compare it to your peers, others who live in your city or attend your university. The site is intended to show where most of the greenhouse gas emissions come from, and identify the activities that will have the greatest impact in reducing this type of pollution. 
 
The state's Air Resources Board has adopted the tool as part of its strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in compliance with the Global Warming Solutions Act, known as AB32. The 2006 law aims to reduce these emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2020. http://coolcalifornia.org/about-us
 
And while carbon calculators have been circulating on the Internet for a few years, this is one of the first to be peer-reviewed and published in a leading academic journal, said Jones in a telephone interview. In addition, this calculator is comprehensive: including estimates for food, energy, waste, water and transportation. 
 
"Our tool has been continuously developed since 2005, and we are constantly improving and refining the data and enhancing the tool," Jones continued, noting the data is open-source, adding another level of transparency. 
 
Providing comparisons based on a user's location and household income is unique too. "Frankly, people don't know about how many miles they drive a year, so the benchmark profiles are really useful," he said.  
 
Because California has relatively clean electricity mix compared to other states, items such as clothing and airline travel actually make up a larger portion of the total carbon footprint than residential electricity use. Clothing is a manufactured product, which is why it has a larger contribution for this state, Kammen noted. 
 
"As far as airline miles are concerned, it's really the affluence affect," he continued. The more money you make, the more likely you are to take more ski trips, more vacations and more flights, Kammen said.
 
Jones continues his doctoral research, working with cities like Davis to use the calculator. The Cool Davis initiative began with 100 participants, including all city council members, students, university leaders, with the goal of reaching 75% of the city's some 60,000 residents. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0618100.html When you are working with policy makers, Jones said, it's important to identify what has the greatest impact.
 
So for those in the Golden State, switching to a more fuel-efficient vehicle would have a greater impact than installing solar panels. For example, the savings from better gas mileage—just five miles per gallon—is the equivalent of all the electricity generated for a single household. And these types of lower-carbon lifestyle choices are perceived as good—where driving a gas-guzzler is perceived as bad, Jones said. 
 
"Buying a hybrid isn't great financial decision, but it does send a signal to your peers you care about the environment."
 
He continued, "we can talk about footprints and responsibility, but we have a much bigger opportunity culturally. It's how you can engage with your peers and your community." 
 
The calculator was even featured Wednesday evening on the PBS show Nova, including a demonstration of one household's carbon footprint, with a cameo appearance by Kammen's young daughters. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/power-surge.html
 
<embed code>
 

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

While the launch of this tool is currently California-centric, these types of forward thinking policy measures are noticed around the world, Kammen said. 

 
At a recent meeting of Clean Energy Ministers in Abu Dhabi, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist said that dignitaries applauded the progress that California is making in this arena. He attended as a representative from the World Bank, not as a representative of the state. http://www.cleanenergyministerial.org/index.html
 
"Time after time they said how this could be adapted to our use in India, in South Africa, which highlights the value of and need for these best practices that could be shared," Kammen said. "The (Cool California) tool is very much that thing—it's open source on web, to make those comparisons across communities."

 

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