Carbon Footprint of New Conference Center: One Million Tons
It's an inconvenient truth. The proposed Conference Center has a huge carbon footprint compared to the existing Faculty Center. Note that California AB32 is concerned with promoting statewide policies to reduce greenhouse gases: the proposed Conference Center/Hotel is in conflict. The Regents also call for a carbon neutral UC Campus with programmed reduction in air travel. The EPA is also regulating greenhouse gases as hazardous emissions.
See our new link to the Science article concerning virtual meetings: an increasing trend as we move away from the heavy carbon footprint of the hundreds of plane flights each conference causes.
If we want to make any effort toward containing the CO2 problem, we must go on a kind of diet. Think of the Conference Center as that piece of chocolate cake that you push away. You don't need to eat it, and it's not worth the calories. We hope you'll agree that the Conference Center isn't worth the carbon. Even if the building's carbon footprint can be mitigated through energy savings and perhaps rooftop Solar power, it is the supply chain and activities of the Conference Center that are responsible for most of the carbon footprint. So the LEEDS silver certification would have little impact on the total carbon footprint. What is sustainability? It is making prudent, sometimes difficult choices, to live within our means both from an environmental and fiscal perspective. One must ask whether the Conference Center is a prudent, sustainable, choice. In the end, if scientists are going to attempt to convince the broader community of the dangers of climate change, we must convince our own Universities to take steps- sometimes painful- to mitigate climate change. That means not pursuing major development.
The Berkeley Cool Climate network calculator http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/ estimates:
300,000 s.f. hotel + supply chain (Los Angeles, CA) corresponds to 3376 M tons of CO2, annually.
This is for a hotel only, not a conference center + hotel.
Number of airline flights:
70% occupancy X 282 rooms X 365 = 72,051 nights. Assume 3 days per meeting or visit, so divide flights by
3 on average. So that's 24,000 flights per year. According to the same site:
1 round-trip medium 400-1200 mile flight = 0.8 metric Ton of CO2.
Carbon from flights: 19,000 T
Car travel: 1 T per 2000 miles, using 20 miles/gallon
(100 trips of 20 miles). While difficult to say, it is fair to guess that activities will generate 200 trips per week,
or roughly 100-200 T per year.
Total CO2 production: 3376 (hotel) + 19,000 (flights) + 200 (cars)
= 22,576 metric tons per year.
Note that even if we are wrong, and the CO2 from the flights is 20% less than our estimate, we are still
looking at roughly 19,000 metric tons of carbon per year - and the total 1 M metric tons is still correct.
If carbon offsets are around $10.00 per metric Ton - costs about $225,000/yr in carbon offsets.
Over a 50 year lifetime, the Conference Center and its associated conference/hotel activities would be responsible for about one million metric tons of CO2 production.