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‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure’ – Drawdown Georgia’s GHG tracking tool

Drawdown Georgia provided this example of its new GHG tracking tool. (Image via drawdownga.org.)

By David Pendered

Drawdown Georgia has unveiled an online tool to track greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions statewide and in each Georgia county. It is the initiative’s second major science-backed effort to help reduce GHG emissions.

The new database provides a user-friendly look at GHG emissions by five sectors: industrial, transportation, residential, commercial and agricultural. Forests are measured for their absorption of emissions.

The tracker was developed by William Drummond, at Georgia Tech, in conjunction with colleagues at Tech and the University of Georgia. Drummond is an associate professor in Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning. These institutions, and others, are part of Drawdown Georgia, a statewide organization created to accelerate the state’s progress toward net-zero GHG emissions.

The tracking project intends to address the adage “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

To illustrate the power of the database, Drummond provided a sample and interpretation of data from Augusta and its five-county metro area.

The findings reveal GHG emissions in the Augusta region are more than 50 percent higher than statewide emissions, on a per-person basis. This results from the area’s high level of industrial emissions. The area is home to the PCS Nitrogen Fertilizer L.P. facility, which is the state’s largest emitter of CO2, with the exception of power plants.

Plant Vogtle is within metro Augusta in Burke County. It now releases virtually zero GHG emissions to produce power to serve more than 1.8 million households. The two new reactors being built are to double the plant’s generation capacity. The tracker does not count emissions related to generating all the electricity consumed in Georgia. About a fifth of Georgia’s electricity is generated in Alabama, according to another document on the tracker site.

Burke County has the state’s second-highest total level of agricultural emissions. The agriculture emissions per capita are nearly 13 percent higher than the statewide total average.

The information provided by the GHG tracker is intended to inform public policy and private behaviors to reduce the emissions of materials that contribute to global warming.

The tracker is the second project by professors associated with Drawdown Georgia. The first was a groundbreaking study released July 26, 2021, and available from an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health, “A framework for localizing global climate solutions and their carbon reduction potential.”

The framework established that Georgia could curb carbon emissions by 50 percent in 2030, compared to 2005 levels, if entities in the state adopted 20 solutions previously identified by Drawdown Georgia scientists.

Marilyn Brown led the team of Drawdown Georgia scientists assembled from Georgia Tech, University of Georgia and Emory University to produce the analysis of potential solutions. Previously, solutions at a subnational level were difficult to assess because data is at the global or national levels. The new model localizes the framework of abatement plans that exist on a larger geography. The project was funded by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation.

In describing the value of the framework, Brown observed, “This analysis validates the viability of the Drawdown Georgia roadmap and shows how the state, its businesses, and its people can benefit by being trailblazers.”

Link: Drawdown Georgia GHG Emissions Tracker


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. Steve Hagen March 15, 2022 5:46 pm

    Any idea of the per person emissions take in to account the emissions from jet plans they take off and land in GA?
    On a trip across several states who gets to count the pollution?Report

    1. David Pendered March 16, 2022 1:06 pm

      Hello, Steve,
      This is a great question. The tracker does not appear to monitor aircraft emissions. Part of the answer may be available in a guest column that appeared in SaportaReport. The author, Lalith Polepedi, a research scientist at Georgia Tech, explored related issues in his piece: “Air travel and COVID-19: An opportunity for lasting emissions reductions” The piece was published Nov. 8, 2020 and was updated with new analysis on March 3, 2021.
      Best regards,

    2. Nicolas Uppal March 20, 2022 7:59 pm

      Awesome questionReport

  2. Nicolas Uppal March 20, 2022 8:06 pm

    This is an awesome tool, however, why would it make sense to invest large sums of money to measure a pernicious effect of today’s society? Shouldn’t there be a consensus that more of a harmful element, GHG in this case, needs to come down? Thus eliminating the cost of developing an ornate tool to measure the decline of something that the human body does not like? This money could’ve gone towards actually addressing the source instead of looking at a derivative of the problem.Report


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