Research, Science & environment

Berkeley Talks: Calculating your carbon footprint and the Cool Campus Challenge

The 'Talk Policy to Me' team talks with one of the makers of the CoolClimate Calculator, an online tool that calculates the amount of CO2 they emit per year

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Spencer Bowen, Reem Rayef and Sarah Edwards

From left: Spencer Bowen, Reem Rayef and Sarah Edwards are Master of Public Policy students and reporters for Talk Policy to Me.

1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s the maximum global temperature increase allowable before we see catastrophic impacts on food security, ecosystems, water access, frequency and extremity of weather events, according to a special 2018 report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report warns global leaders and policymakers that failing to limit the earth’s temperature increase will result in a world that is unrecognizable – and extremely difficult to live in.

Given the urgency and magnitude of climate change, what are individuals’ role in helping to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius? How do our lives and habits need to change? How does our responsibility, as residents of the wealthiest country in the world, compare to those living in poverty? And how does individual responsibility for carbon reduction interact with corporate and industrial responsibility? Does it matter that we recycle and buy local produce and use public transit when the U.S. continues to buy oil from Saudi Arabia and 85% of Americans drive to work?

To get to these questions Talk Policy to Me reporter and Goldman MPP student Reem Rayef spoke with Chris Jones, program manager for the CoolClimate Calculator, developed by Professor Dan Kammen at UC Berkeley’s Renewable & Appropriate Energy Laboratory. It’s an online interactive tool that calculates users’ carbon footprints (the amount of CO2 they emit per year) using information about their homes, consumption habits and lifestyles. The calculator then provides custom recommendations to users on how they might “green” their lifestyles — from buying an electric vehicle to eating a vegetarian diet.

Through April, the campus is participating in the Cool Campus Challenge, designed to educate and motivate all nine UC campuses to take simple, energy-saving and waste-reducing actions to help the UC system reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. Students, staff and faculty are all invited to participate.

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