Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Students inventory greenhouse gas emissions in Madison

Madison has a more complete estimate of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions thanks to a 2014 analysis by La Follette School students.

Students in the Workshop in Public Affairs taught by Donald Moynihan estimated that Madison emitted 4.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2012. In the analysis, carbon dioxide equivalents account for all the different greenhouse gases released by various activities in the city, including carbon dioxide and methane.

The city has the goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 80 percent of the 2010 baseline by 2050.

“This report, for the first time, offers insights into the changes in greenhouse gas emissions by implementing policies at the city level,” says Bridget Holcomb, one of the authors. “Our inventory provides a more complete estimate of Madison’s emissions than a 2010 inventory, and new software allows for projections of the impacts of various GHG reduction strategies.”

Three sectors accounted for most of the emissions: commercial energy, transportation, and residential energy, says Holcomb, who wrote the report with Adam Anderson, Tyler Brandt, Iseul Choi, Kendi Larrabee and Leona Yi-Fan Su. They presented to the city’s sustainability committee in May.

The authors made one proposal for each of those three sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Madison: They recommend implementing commercial building energy efficiency benchmarking, instituting bus rapid transit and implementing a full-scale solar photovoltaic bulk purchase program.

“Each of these policies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short term, and these reductions could be built upon by implementing more reduction strategies,” Holcomb says.

Although each of these proposals would result in decreased emissions, combining them would not counteract growth in emissions due to expected population growth, the authors caution. In addition to these recommendations, the City of Madison will need to enact more reduction tactics to meet the goal of 80 percent reduction by 2050.