What if someone told you that you were emitting hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide per year? Say, 225,200 tons of carbon dioxide?
That’s the question the city of Davis is currently facing. According to figures developed by the city’s Climate Action Team, Davis emitted 225,200 equivalent tons of carbon dioxide in 1990. By 2015, if things were to continue without change, the number would jump to 313,006 tons.
These numbers were presented to the Davis City Council on Apr. 1 as part of a greenhouse gas emissions inventory.
The inventory found that 57 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Davis come from transportation. Another 23 percent of the emissions come from the residential sector and an additional 20 percent from commercial activity.
So far the projections are only based on data from 1990.
“It takes months of research just to get one year’s amount of data,” said senior utility resource specialist Richard Tsai. “There are many sources. There’s data from PG&E, Department of Transportation, the Air Quality Research Board that we have to get.”
According to the report, 3 percent of emissions come from city government, while 97 percent comes from the community. City government emission sources include city buildings, city-owned vehicles, streetlights and traffic lights and waste.
“It’s small, but it is 3 percent, and we need to lead by example,” said City Councilmember Stephen Souza.
The data was compiled using special software developed by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. It is measured in “equivalent carbon dioxide,” which is used to describe all greenhouse gas emissions in an equivalent volume of carbon dioxide.
Councilmembers discussed several ideas for reducing emissions. One idea proposed by Souza is to expand solar production at the city’s current solar farm known as PVUSA, short for Photovoltaics for Utility Systems Applications. That facility is only legally allowed to produce one megawatt of electricity per year, said Mitch Sears, Sustainability Program coordinator.
“Certainly that site is capable in terms of land area of producing far in excess of what the city [government] would need,” Sears said.
Additional legislation would be required to expand production, he said.
Mayor Sue Greenwald said she also supports a solar approach.
“The time is now ripe to continue to expand the solar production,” said Greenwald. “I’d also like to get back into the research and testing end of it if possible, because a city like Davis with the university [should be able to do more than just production].”
The greenhouse gas inventory is the first of five steps the city adopted last April toward reducing its impact on the environment. The next step is to adopt an emissions reduction target for the forecast year of 2015.
The Climate Action Team met Apr. 3 to further discuss the inventory and begin dividing into smaller groups. The team meets the first and third Thursdays of the month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Meetings are open to the public and are held in various locations. More information is available on the city’s website at cityofdavis.org.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.