How Big is Your Own Carbon Footprint?
Worldwide, countries are working hard to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But what does your own state’s carbon footprint look like? What about your city’s footprint? Your household’s?
The CoolClimate Network, founded by Energy and Resources Group (ERG) researcher Chris Jones and professor Dan Kammen, helps answer those questions. It created the first—and still most highly rated—carbon footprint calculator, which is tailored to each U.S. state, city, and household. Based at UC Berkeley, the network is a consortium of universities, businesses, governments, and nonprofit organizations that’s developing policies and programs to motivate people and organizations to take climate action.
Jones developed the first comprehensive carbon footprint calculator in 2003 for his master’s project in ERG. By 2007, the calculator’s capabilities included benchmarking according to zip codes, which enabled it to compare cities and individual households.
CoolClimate has also launched innovative behavioral change programs and policy tools that are accelerating the transition to a clean-energy economy. Its competition software offers a gamified online platform that motivates participants to form teams and reduce their collective footprints. In 2015, CoolClimate’s Cool Campus Challenge, in partnership with all 10 UC campuses, engaged 20,000 UC staff, students, and faculty to inspire the UC community to be climate neutral by the year 2025. A new round of the challenge is being planned for 2018.
Additionally, an online planning tool maps future household carbon footprints at the neighborhood scale, based on policy scenarios. And CoolClimate’s tools provide data and analytics to help hundreds of other research efforts and programs. Jones is now scaling the calculator internationally, replicating it for other countries. “It’s really taking off right now,” he said. “Once you know your own carbon footprint, it ranks recommendations and encourages pledges for behavioral change.”
The network is funded by a tiered partnership program that costs between $10,000 and $60,000 per year, and CoolClimate has recently formed partnerships with the Nature Conservancy, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and the government of Ontario, Canada.
“CoolClimate has demonstrated how behavioral science research, tools, and programs can quickly scale up climate solutions in California,” said Jones. “We’re excited to expand this model as a complement to national and international climate policy.”
— Kirsten mickelwait
Metabolic Research Across the Bay
More than 100 million Americans are now diabetic or prediabetic, according to the Mayo Clinic. Many of the researchers in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology (NST) study what drives diabetes and other metabolic diseases and are working to answer some new questions: How do vitamins, hormones, and aging affect metabolism? What metabolic alterations underlie the development and growth of cancer cells? How can we create healthy fat tissues to combat obesity-related diseases?
The need for continued research in these areas was a catalyst for a new collaboration between NST’s metabolic biology graduate program and the Diabetes Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Currently, metabolic biology graduate students complete three lab rotations with NST faculty before joining one lab for the remainder of their doctoral research. Starting this fall, they’ll also have the opportunity to work with five faculty at UCSF, including the Diabetes Center’s director, Matthias Hebrok.
“The expertise in diabetes research at Berkeley and UCSF is highly complementary,” said professor and NST chair Andreas Stahl, “so I expect many exciting projects and discoveries to emerge as the two units grow closer in research and education.”
— Mackenzie Smith
One Megawatt Closer to Carbon Neutrality
Working toward the goal of becoming a carbon-neutral campus, UC Berkeley is now producing one megawatt of solar power per year—enough to power 164 homes on average, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Solar panels have been installed recently at five locations on campus: the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, Eshleman Hall, the Recreational Sports Facility (RSF) field house, University Village, and Jacobs Hall. At University Village—the largest of the sites—the solar carport system generates 20 percent of the electricity needed to power the whole village, while at the RSF the panels generate about one-third of the necessary energy. Online power dashboards for these two sites allow users to track power generation in real time and learn about the corresponding environmental benefits.
Falcons Choose On-Campus Housing
Once on the brink of extinction, peregrine falcons—the world’s fastest animals—have made a remarkable comeback and have begun moving from their customary habitats on cliff faces into urban areas, laying their eggs on skyscrapers and other tall buildings.
After a pair of peregrine falcons nested on the second balcony of the Campanile, two chicks hatched in late May. Volunteers—including Doug Bell, PhD ’12 Zoology, of the East Bay Regional Park District—banded the chicks, in order to allow researchers to study their movement.
Mary Malec, a volunteer raptor-nest monitor for the park district, organized a group of eight volunteers to be on “fledgewatch” throughout the week that the chicks were likely to start flying. The volunteers took shifts and were ready to help if necessary. “Fledglings fly well, but land badly,” Malec said. Named Fiat and Lux via a UC Berkeley Facebook poll, the fledglings took their first flight off the 307-foot bell tower in July. Sadly, Lux died a week later after flying into a window on the 10th floor of Evans Hall.
Fiat has since taken flight and left campus, which is typical behavior for adolescent raptors. Since Fiat’s departure, four other peregrines have flown into the area, but were chased off by the peregrine couple that have claimed the Campanile as their home. Malec thinks the outsiders were house
hunting. “This is a great territory,” she said. “They’ll have to defend it.”
— Adapted from an article by Anne Brice