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