FAQ for calculator

I am having trouble viewing the calculator. Is there an html version?

The Adobe Flash plug-in is required in order to view the Cool California Calculator. It can be downloaded for free at: http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/

Where can I find information on the calculations and data sources?

A description of all calculations in the tool (Transportation, Housing, Food, and Goods & Services) is available here: http://www.coolcalifornia.org/calculator-documentation

Should I enter information as an individual or a household?

It’s up to you. The CoolCalifornia Calculator allows you to select the number of people in your household. It then generates a default footprint for all people in your household and allows you to adjust the inputs based on your household’s particular consumption choices. If you are an individual living in shared housing then you may be only interested in calculating your own personal emissions. If this is the case you should only enter data that corresponds to your own personal share or contribution towards the items in the calculator. For example, only enter the portion of the electricity bill that corresponds to your consumption, rather than the electricity bill for the entire house. Similarly, only enter the number of square feet of housing that correspond to your share of the total living area. For example, if five people live in a house, you may want to divide the total square footage of the house by 5.

I like the new version of the calculator! However, could you explain why the new version provides an ~17 tons/person carbon footprint average in CA compared to the previous 14 tons/person? The average US carbon footprint also changed.

The new number for CA is 47 tCO2e (tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) per household, with 2.7 persons, or ~17 tCO2/person. Indirect emissions are a little higher than the CA per capita emissions from production primarily since California imports goods from other states that are produced with more fossil fuel intensive production (all goods are assumed to be produced with US average technology). The US average is 49 tons for 2.5 persons or ~20 tCO2/person. Our previous estimate was 42 tCO2/household. The difference is we were previously using the Consumer Expenditures Survey for indirect emissions from food, goods and services and now we are using the Bureau of Economic Analysis benchmark input-output data, which is the same dataset that is used to created economic input output – lifecycle analysis (EIO-LCA) and therefore a better match. Using the Consumer Expenditures Survey has been standard practice in the literature but a few studies have pointed out this error (i.e. the fact that the Consumer Expenditures Survey data is not used to create EIO-LCA).

What happens when I select City or Region?

We use the US Consumer Expenditures Survey, provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), to determine what a typical household in each city or region consumes. This serves as the foundation for all default values in the calculator. Since BEA provides consumption data on the top US metropolitan statistical regions we are able to estimate the climate footprint of the typical household in each of these major cities. Selecting City or Region also adjusts for local prices as provided by the US Census. Estimating "California Average" household Consumption data is not available for the state of California, but rather for major US metropolitan areas (e.g., Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego in the state of California) and for major regions of the United States. The region "West," includes Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Income in California is 3% higher than average income on the West. We therefore increase all consumption categories in the calculator by 3% to estimate consumption patterns by the typical California household. This calculation should not be considered as accurate as estimates for cities since consumption in each category may not scale linearly with income as we have assumed.

What happens when I select number of people in household?

When the following two questions are answered: 1) How many people live in your household? 2) What is your gross annual household income? Default values for all questions in the calculator are automatically filled in. The user can then progress through the calculator to change answers based on their own behavior. Default values are provided by the US Consumer Expenditures Survey.

Why is entering income important?

Income and household size are highly correlated with greenhouse gas emissions. In order for the calculator to most closely approximate your annual household emissions income and household size help to approximate consumer spending for households with similar characteristics.

Can the personal information I enter be viewed by any other computer?

No. The data entered in the calculator is not saved and can not be viewed by any other computer. This is because Flash is a "client side" application. In other words, once the file loads to your computer it no needs an internet connection.

What are "Similar Households"?

Similar households have the same number of people and income level. The calculator generates default values based on these characteristics. These default values are automatically entered into the calculator. Therefore, if you do not answer a question, the calculator assumes you are like households with similar characteristics. This feature is particularly useful if it is difficult for you to answer the questions… just assume you are like everyone else.

Are default answers entered automatically?

Yes, if you do not answer a question, the default value is entered automatically. You can choose to accept the defaul values or enter your own.

What if I have more than 2 motor vehicles?

Simply click on the + sign button to add more vehicles. Likewise, click on the - sign to remove vehicles from your list.

Utilities are included in my rent. How can I enter this information?

If you do not pay for your utilities directly you can simply accept the default values for similar households, or adjust these based on your best guess of whether you use more or less energy than most households with the same number of people and income.

What if I buy local and organic food? Are emissions really higher if I pay more?

The calculator currently estimates emissions for average products. If you pay more for organic products than conventional products then you may consider reducing your answers to compensate for higher prices. Future versions of the tool will allow users to select organic and adjust emissions appropriately based on difference in price and, to the extent data is available, based on energy inputs to different farming systems.

What types of items are included in the four major categories of goods and services?

Clothing includes things like: - Indoor and outdoor clothing - Fabrics and yarns - Shoes - Accessories (including jewelry, hats, etc.) - Luggage and backpacks - Blankets or sleeping bags - Other textile or leather items Furnishings and other household items includes things like: - Furniture and other furnishings, such as art - Appliances (large and small) - Yard items (plants, fertilizers) - Household maintenance and tools (anything from toilet paper, to paint, to power saws) Other goods includes things such as: - Medical goods - Entertainment Paper, office and reading - Personal care and cleaning and Auto parts Services includes things such as: - Vehicle Services - Household maintenance and repair - Education - Health care - Personal business and finances - Entertainment & Recreation - Information and communication - Organizations and charity - Personal services and clothing services - Childcare and domestic workers - Animal Services - And other miscellaneous services

Who developed the Cool California Calculator?

The calculator was developed by the Berkeley Institute of the Environment (BIE) at the University of California, Berkeley. BIE is co-directed by professors Daniel M. Kammen and Inez Fung. Christopher M. Jones (lead researcher) and graduate student Sally Maki developed the existing tool. Christopher M. Jones developed previous versions of the calculator, dating back to the first iterations in 2003. The calculator was supported in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (Urban Sustainability Initiative – PI, Daniel Kammen), the World Wildlife Fund and the Center for Information Technology in the Interest of Society. The California Air Resources Board provided source data (utilities, air travel and public transportation) and technical support. CoolCalifornia.org is a joint project of the California Air Resources Board, the California Energy Commission, the Berkeley Institute of the Environment, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Next Ten.

Where can I find more information on the calculator?

Use the contact form.

What are the terms of use?

See: http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/terms-of-use