Reflections

The summer is almost over! It went by pretty quickly. What sorts of things have I worked on with the CoolClimate Team?

I started out with a data warm-up to find ZCTA*-level data for California regarding air districts, Title 24 climate zones, hydrologic regions, waste regions, and power utilities. This data will be used in the Local Government Decision Support Tool (LGDST) that CoolClimate is building for California and, eventually, the entire nation. Local governments will be able to use the LGDST to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions reduction and cost of many different actions, or measures, for communities and municipal government operations. The measures cover everything from street lights to buildings to transportation and waste. The warm-up took a lot of time in Google Earth and help from GIS intern Kamini Iyer. Surprisingly, for such geographic regions, there was not a lot of detailed (i.e. ZCTA-level) geographic information available.

Then the LCA team started gathering data for the International Carbon Calculator, which is a detailed consumption-based calculator for households. We found basic country data (such as population, household income, heating and cooling degree days**), household consumption data, transportation emissions from different modes of travel, and household energy use for eleven countries. Caine wrote a blog post about our experience searching for this data. Even though there are a number of household carbon calculators on the web, they are very basic and not consumption-based. The CoolClimate calculator will be as detailed as possible given what data is available. I know--I looked all over the Internet for the data!

Our third project was refining the LGDST by searching for California city-level data to fill in gaps and strengthen the reliability of the tool. Google was very useful for researching energy use, vehicle miles traveled, and even number of streetlights in a city, as well as the associated greenhouse gas emissions. While doing this, we also revamped a measure about using more efficient or plug-in electric vehicles by reformatting the interface and inputs and making the measure more detailed and customizable.

In summary, I have done much data-finding and Excel manipulation to produce inputs for calculations that will hopefully help cities and households reduce their carbon footprint.

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*For those of you who don’t know (like me until an hour ago), ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs) are not exactly ZIP codes. ZCTAs are geographic regions produced by the U.S. Census Bureau that reflect the most frequently-occurring ZIP code in a region determined by Census blocks. ZIP codes, which are produced by the U.S. Postal Service, are not actually geographic entities.
**Heating and cooling degree days (HDD and CDD) are a way to compare climates in different regions of the world. HDD and CDD are relative to a baseline temperature (usually 16 or 18 degrees Celsius), and are generally calculated rather roughly by subtracting the baseline temperature from the actual temperature (HDD) or vice versa (CDD). The positive difference is the number of DDs.

Sources:
U.S. Census Bureau. (7/26/12). ZIP Code (TM) Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs (TM)). http://www.census.gov/geo/ZCTA/zcta.html.
Wikipedia. (7/26/12). Heating degree day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heating_degree_day.