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Columbus Makes Efforts Toward Sustainability

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Columbus Makes Efforts Toward SustainabilityImage via mattwalker69.
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A recent data byte by Community Research Partners in Columbus showed greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the suburbs to be more than twice those in Downtown Columbus. The source data is from a report by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at UC Berkeley, which assesses the nation’s efforts toward resource consumption reduction.

According to the report, US households comprise just 4.3 percent of the global population, yet emit 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, the driving force of climate change.

A suburban Columbus household in New Albany produces almost 400 pounds of carbon dioxide each day compared to 163 pounds in the average downtown residence. Suburban households are bigger, requiring more gas for heat and more electricity, which accounts for almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Public transportation is also less accessible in the suburbs, resulting in more cars, the second biggest contributor to GHG emissions.

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Between 1990 and 2013, GHG emissions from transportation went up from 16 percent to 27. Passenger cars added 35 percent more miles to their odometers in the same period, and limited gains in fuel efficiency have been made across the US vehicle fleet, according to an EPA fact sheet.

Columbus is ahead in that respect, and was named one of 40 of the greenest fleets in North America by Government Fleet magazine. Erin Miller, Environmental Steward for Columbus, said the Green Fleet Action Plan is one of the city’s biggest climate change mitigation accomplishments. The project started in 2008, when there were more than five thousand active government on and off road vehicles collectively using about 3.6 million gallons of fuel.

Miller said the city now uses 4 percent less fuel despite increasing the fleet by more than 1,000 vehicles, and has reduced GHG emissions by 13 percent.

“We were able to do this through operating cleaner vehicles with cleaner fuels and cleaner engine operation and through operating vehicles more efficiently by reducing idling and right sizing vehicles,” Miller said.

People have been more interested in alternative vehicles in the last decade. There were a little more than 7,000 alternative energy cars on the road in 2012, compared to just over 500 in 2005.

“There’s definitely a trend in moving toward alternative fuel vehicles,” Miller said. “We’ve made sure the infrastructure we’ve put in to support our vehicles is also open to the public.”

The city has two public compressed natural gas (CNG) stations and two in planning. Combined with the private stations there are about 10 in the region.

Slow progress is being made, and another RAEL report detailing 10 solutions for carbon neutrality and climate stability said more drastic efforts need to be made to keep up with worldwide climate change.

“To limit long-term global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius, cumulative emissions from now to 2050 must be less than 1 trillion tons and approach zero emissions post-2050,” the study said.

The report places the world at a crossroads, marked by the number of natural disasters – hurricanes, floods, heat waves, droughts and forest fires- witnessed on a global scale within the last couple of decades.

“These extreme events, as well as the spread of certain infectious diseases, worsened air pollution, drinking water contamination and food shortages, are creating the beginning of what soon will be a global public health crisis,” the report continues.

Miller said a climate vulnerability assessment is in the works to see where Columbus stands and what will need to be done on the local level to meet climate change mitigation standards. The assessment will be available within the month.

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