Climate Change in the Atlanta Metropolitan Region

The emissions inventory for the 20-county Metropolitan Atlanta area included industrial, residential and commercial energy use, as well as transportation and waste categories.  Our findings showed that in 2000, transportation was the largest contributor of CO2 emissions for the region (at 34 percent), followed by industrial energy use (at 24 percent.)  The authors estimate that in 1990 Atlanta 20-County aggregate CO2 emissions were nearly 68 million eCO2 tons.  In 2000 this figure has grown to an estimated 103 million eCO2 tons. The authors have estimated two separate 2030 estimates for Atlanta’s metropolitan GHG emissions: 172 million eCO2 tons and 202 million eCO2 tons, based on ARC forecast and estimates based on GDOT historical data for Atlanta’s transportation network.  Based on the 2030 ARC travel demand model projections, per capita eCO2 remain relatively stable over this 40-year period, rising from 22.9 eCO2 per person in 1990 to 25.0 tons of eCO2 in 2000, then dropping slightly to 24.8 tons eCO2 in 2030.  Thus, the projected growth in aggregate CO2 emissions for Atlanta metropolitan region is attributed to population growth.

Decatur inventory findings showed that the highest CO2 emissions contributor in 2006 was commercial energy use (at 36 percent), followed by residential energy use (at 35 percent.)  Per capita GHG emissions in Decatur were found to be lower than in Atlanta, at 15.2 eCO2 tons per person, compared with 20-County 25 eCO2 tons per person.

For the city of Decatur, we used ICLEI accounting approach for some sections of the inventory.  For other sections of Decatur inventory (like community and commercial energy use), as well as for most of the metro Atlanta inventory, proportioning approach was used.  ICLEI stresses the importance of obtaining direct figures from the energy providers for the inventory.  However, those figures were not readily available within the timeframe of this project.  Data quality, especially in going back to 1990, presents a significant challenge when creating an emissions inventory.

Our group developed a potential scenario for meeting the Kyoto protocol requirements for the 20-county Atlanta region.  Based on this scenario, 40 million tons of CO2 could be achieved, with the largest reductions in CO2 emissions coming from transportation and electricity sectors.  Within the transportation sector, larger reductions in CO2 emissions are feasible through higher vehicle fuel efficiency than could be attained through behavior-based VMT reduction.  We did not use the ICLEI software to calculate the measures impact, as the software leaves it up to the user to quantify the emissions reductions.

Climate change presents both challenges, and in the economic development arena, opportunities.  In the Southeast region alone, millions of dollars are currently being invested in grants and programs in order to foster business and technology in the area of climate change.  However, Georgia is not one of the states at the forefront of green economic development.  Therefore, it would be good for the State of Georgia and the Atlanta metro region to invest in development of both human and technology resources to support the climate change resources.