Columbia’s carbon dioxide emissions have grown almost 10 percent from its 2000 level, according to a recent report by the city’s Water and Light department. This leaves Columbia 13.5 percent away from its original reduction goal laid out a year ago.
Last July, the City Council signed a modified version of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which asks cities across the country to take local action to reduce global warming. One of the city’s goals is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent by 2012, compared to 2000 levels, said Dan Dasho, Columbia’s Water and Light department director. The first step is to inventory local emissions of greenhouse gases and then plan for reduction.
Dasho brought the inventory to the council’s work session Monday night. Total carbon dioxide emissions were 2.66 million tons in 2000, the report said. This means that to meet its goal and reduce the emissions by 5.2 percent, the city should produce no more than 2.52 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.
But instead, carbon dioxide emissions rose to 2.91 million in 2005, the most recent year for which data are available. This is a 9.54 percent increase. To meet its original goal, the city is actually looking at a 13.5 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said the increase is probably attributable to Columbia’s development.
“It does push back the goal, but you must factor in the growth the city has made,” Skala said. “That’s correctable.”
Dasho agrees. “It is probably putting us further from the goal,” he said about the 10 percent jump in emissions.
The Water and Light deparment began gathering archived data for energy, transportation and waste emissions in January, Dasho said. In March, the department joined the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, which provided the city with software that guided the data collection, he said.
Sam Clemens, an intern for the city and MU mechanical engineering student, did most of the data collection. Clemens, who had never worked with environmental issues before, said his biggest surprise was that the largest portion of carbon dioxide emissions comes not from cars “but rather energy that everyone uses.”
Energy use accounted for 70 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in 2005, according to the report. Transportation emissions made up 29 percent of the total and waste emissions accounted for 1 percent.
Dasho said potential steps that Columbia can take to reduce emissions include new building codes, preservation of trees and open spaces, incentive programs for public transportation and improvements to traffic flows. Public education and outreach to utility customers are also areas of focus. Buying more efficient appliances, for instance, can make a difference in energy conservation.
“If we get everyone doing it, we can have a big impact,” Dasho said.