Climate Change & Energy Demand
What Can One Montana Family Do to Help?
A standard methodology in climate change studies is to first take inventory. A number of websites offer ways to measure your “carbon footprint” – your family’s energy use and contribution to greenhouse gases. Keep in mind that we all must pay a certain amount for every unit of energy used, whether for vehicle fuel, electricity, natural gas for home heating and hot water, or more indirectly for air travel or even food purchases. Visit one or several of the following sites and get a rough determination of your household contribution to greenhouse gases. Some calculators may ask specific information about your utility consumption patterns, so you may want to have electrical and natural gas bills on hand.
The Nature Conservancy offers an easy-to-use carbon footprint calculator. Food consumption patterns are included. Results are compared against national and world averages for your family size.
Climate Trust is a non-profit organization that purchases and exchanges carbon offsets.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a carbon calculator. The calculator is detailed for home energy use, automobile use.
The World Resources Institute also offers a carbon calculator. You may want to have some utility bills in front of you as you use the calculator.
The Ecological Footprint calculator solicits a lot of information about food purchasing habits, recycling, and lifestyle choices. A running tally appears throughout the calculations with links to more information as you go.
Another way to inventory your residential energy use is to divide yearly consumption into baseload and space heating. Baseload is the year-round energy consumption to heat water, refrigerate and cook food, light spaces, and other uses. Your monthly baseload energy is approximately equal to the June, July, or August consumption, since the heating system is not in use. Multiply June gas and electric consumption by 12 (months in a year), and subtract that amount from your total annual electric and gas usage. The amount left over approximates energy consumption for space heating.
By now you should have a rough estimate of your family’s gross greenhouse gas contributions. Don’t be too ashamed if your carbon footprint is higher than the national average – about 10 metric tons of CO2 per year. Montanans in many instances have significant heating and cooling utility costs. Our gross per capita greenhouse gas emissions from all sources are almost double the national average as well, once again due to the rural nature of the state, a large agricultural sector, and comparatively large fossil fuel industry.