Students inventory CO2 emissions in Camden

The Camden Herald
By Susan Mustapich | Oct 11, 2018

CAMDEN — Home heating and vehicle fuels top the list of carbon emissions producers in Camden, according to an inventory conducted by Watershed School students.

The inventory is the first phase of a project to assist the town of Camden to reduce the emissions commonly called greenhouse gases. Students completed the inventory in June, and will review and update their work during the spring 2019 semester.

Earlier this year, a group of Watershed students and Camden Hills Regional High School students succeeded in convincing the Camden Select Board to sign onto the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. Students explained that the town of Camden's participation is voluntary, and no financial commitment was required to join. Town committees, including the Energy Committee and Conservation Commission, are also supporting the work of the Watershed students.

The students agreed to take on the first phase of the work, to research and inventory the town of Camden's carbon emissions. This inventory is the first step towards creating a local action plan to reduce the emissions many scientists agree are driving global warming.

In July, the board voted to authorize Town Manager Audra Caler­Bell to find the best source of funding to pay a $600 fee for technical assistance with the software that students are using. Technical assistance will help students to more fully assess the data they have collected, according to Watershed teacher Janet McMahon.

The Global Covenant is a pledge by cities and towns "to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, track their progress and improve local resilience to climate change." It lays out a three­year cycle, beginning with inventory and risk assessment in year one, followed by recommendations in year two and actions in year three.

Towns as small or smaller than Camden are part of the 9,000 cities and local governments from six continents and 127 countries that have joined the effort to reduce greenhouse emissions, according to the Covenant website, The Covenant has roots in organizations created by the European Union and United Nations.

A United Nations report issued Oct. 8 predicts that devastating effects of climate change will hit harder and sooner than predicted, unless dramatic steps are taken to reduce the use of fossil fuels and lessen the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, according to the Portland Press Herald. The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that unless global temperatures are limited to an increase of 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit over pre­industrial times, sea­level rise, melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet and water shortages will have catastrophic effects on populations around the world.

Home heating largest source of emissions in Camden

In July, Watershed student Alex Facq and McMahon presented the results of the emissions inventory to the Select Board.

Students used many sources to research carbon emissions in Camden, including information from multiple town departments, a fuel company, schools and businesses. Students chose to use data from 2016 as the baseline.

Nearly 50 percent of carbon dioxide­equivalent gases in 2016 were produced by residential energy use, according to the inventory.

Camden has 3,230 houses, with an average household size of 1.9 residents, and 226 commercial buildings. Thirty­seven percent of homes are older than 70 years, and 77 percent of homes are heated with oil. Residential oil use makes up 55 percent of built­ environment emissions.

The remainder of CO2e emissions come from transportation and mobile sources, 28 percent; commercial energy, 16 percent; solid waste, 8 percent; and water and water treatment, 1 percent.

A total of 34,559,334 vehicle miles were traveled in Camden in 2016, on the 59 miles of roads and streets within town borders. The annual CO2e emissions produced that year was 13,186 metric tons. The study found that passenger vehicles comprise 92 percent of traffic volume, and heavy trucks, 8 percent. Fifty­three percent of Camden's population commutes.

The total solid waste produced in Camden in 2016 was 4,630 tons, of which 51 percent was burned and 36 percent was received by the landfill at the Mid­Coast Solid Waste transfer station in Rockport. Another 13 percent was received by landfills in locations outside of Knox County.

From 2004 to 2014, CO2e emissions in Camden peaked in 2007, at 450,000 metric tons, and have since come down 7 percent to 400,000 metric tons. The recommended 30 percent emission reduction goal by 2020 is 300,000 tons. A 50 percent reduction in emissions is called for by 2050.

Students aim to help town officials deal with climate change

Facq plans to focus his senior project at Watershed on reviewing the data collected last spring for accuracy and filling in any blanks, as well as assisting the juniors and sophomores in next spring's climate change class. He was recently appointed to the Energy Committee, after applying to the town.

Last semester, he took the lead in learning how to use ClearPath, software provided free to towns in the United States that sign onto the Covenant of Mayors, that assists in creating a “Community­Scale Inventory.” Because the students did not have a budget for technical assistance, Facq taught himself how to use ClearPath. The software is used in cities and towns around the world by professional and technical staff "who lead the climate change mitigation process in their cities and communities," according to the Covenant website.

McMahon credits Facq for the many hours he poured into the work of learning the complex software. She said she hopes he will be able to help take the inventory, which she said is 75 percent complete, to the next level. He will also help students in the spring 2019 climate change class with the hazards assessment component the Covenant requires, looking at the impacts of climate change on the town, she said. In 2017, another group of Watershed students studied and reported on impacts of sea­level rise on Camden. McMahon explained that there are other are many more areas to be assessed.

This coming year, students will also explore recommendations, such those issued by the Paris Accord, and what is realistic, McMahon said. She said Watershed is the only high school group in the United States working to prepare the Global Covenant of Mayors inventory of emissions in order to assist town officials to address and prepare for climate change.

Facq has been interested in science for a long time, and more recently has become very interested in environmental science. He is also interested in politics from the perspective of how society handles the problem of global warming.

"I really wish that as a society we were doing more towards helping the environment and not damaging it more," he said. "Being the younger generation, and aware that everything we do now is going to be our problem going forward, I'd appreciate it if we would start working on it [climate change] sooner, rather than later."

"It's going to be more work if it's later. There's going to be more damage, and it's going to be harder to fix," he said. "That's why I'm passionate about this. I just want to be able to make a difference, and do it in my own town."