Linn County publishes first greenhouse gas emissions inventory

Demonstrators at the Oct. 8, 2019 flood groundbreaking in Cedar Rapids draw attention to climate change’s impact on increased flooding. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Linn County released its first greenhouse gas emissions inventory on Tuesday.

The report was prepared by the Linn County Office of Sustainability and is the “first step” in documenting emission levels and sources of emissions, the county said in a news release.

The inventory compiled data from the year 2010, and includes estimates of greenhouse gas emissions for that year. This information will serve as a baseline for Linn County’s climate action plan, so the effectiveness of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be measured.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors passed a climate resolution in 2019 declaring a climate crisis in the county and establishing seven targets for climate action.

The board adopted an additional climate resolution earlier this year that called for the prioritization of voices from vulnerable communities, which the resolution said included “residents of color; low-income, disabled, and elderly residents; rural residents, and immigrant and refugee residents.”

The greenhouse gas emissions inventory will be used to keep track of reduction in emissions, in order to make sure the county is on pace to meet the seven objectives outlined in the 2019 resolution, the county’s sustainability program manager Tamara Marcus told Little Village earlier this year. Marcus was also one of the three authors of the inventory.

• Decrease countywide CO2 emissions by 45 percent from the first recorded year’s levels by 2030 and achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050

• Decrease countywide methane and black carbon emissions by 35 percent from the first recorded year’s levels by 2050

• Increase renewables to account for 100 percent of electricity generation in Linn County by 2050

• Decrease coal-generated electricity in Linn County to 0 percent by 2050

• Decrease industry CO2 emissions in Linn County by 90 percent from the first recorded year’s levels by 2050

• Increase the Linn County transport sector’s share of low-emission final energy to 65 percent by 2050

• Commit to carbon dioxide removal efforts that allow the county to achieve net zero CO2 emissions in 2050

The largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in 2010 was natural gas consumption with about a third of all emissions. Information from natural gas consumption was obtained from MidAmerican Energy and the EPA Facility Level Information on Greenhouse Gases tool.

The largest source of natural gas emissions was industrial with about half of the emissions, followed by residential and commercial.

Natural gas emissions in Linn County during 2010 — Baseline Inventory of Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions report

The second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions was stationary fuel combustion with 27 percent and grid electricity with 20 percent. Electricity generation and transportation were each about 8 percent. The remaining 2 percent consisted of wastewater and solid waste.

Greenhouse gas emissions in Linn County during 2010 — Baseline Inventory of Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions report

Data from a greenhouse gas inventory can be used to help rebuild communities in a sustainable manner and implement climate mitigation strategies, the county said. It’s also a way to track how the community is moving toward its sustainability goals as climate-related events happen with “greater frequency.”

“East Central Iowa, including Linn County, is at particular risk for a greater number of catastrophic and intense storms, which will be further exacerbated by GHG emissions causing rising temperatures,” the county said in its news release. “In the last decade, Linn County has experienced a wide variety of climate change-related effects with two historic floods in 2008 and 2016 and the most recent derecho event that happened in August of 2020 causing extensive property damage and significant loss of Linn County’s tree canopy.”

The report also outlines potential adaptation and mitigation strategies. For adaptation, or actions to manage the impacts of climate change, the report lists flood protection, energy-efficient buildings and natural disaster relief.

For actions to reduce emissions that cause climate change, the report suggests sustainable transportation, greenhouse gas emission reduction and using renewable energy.

Four areas are outlined as having “the greatest potential for emissions reduction”:

• Natural gas use in stationary fuel combustion

• Emissions associated with ADM corn processing stationary fuel combustion

• Natural gas consumption in Linn County

• Grid electricity emission factors

Completing another greenhouse gas inventory in two to five years is recommended, with a goal of assessing inventories yearly, the report’s authors said.

“The next steps are to forecast emissions, set an emissions reduction target, and build upon the existing Sustainability Action Plan with a more robust Climate Action Plan that identifies specific quantified strategies that can cumulatively meet that target,” the report said.

Linn County will begin recruiting members in September for the Climate Advisory Committee, which will include individuals from the industrial, commercial and residential sectors. They will be tasked with helping to complete the yearly greenhouse gas inventories.

The county is also holding public forums in the coming weeks to inform residents about the baseline greenhouse gas inventory and get feedback from residents for the climate action plan.

These public forums will begin next week and take place throughout the month of August.

Saturday, Aug. 14, Saturday, Aug. 21 and Saturday, Aug. 28: Fillmore Gardens, 520 11th St. NW in Cedar Rapids, at 10 a.m.

Sunday, Aug. 15: Matthew 25, 201 3rd Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids, at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 31: African American Museum of Iowa, 55 12th Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids at 5 p.m.

Online registration is encouraged for each event.

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