Tuesday, August 3, 2010 - 8:40 AM

OOS 12-3: Scaling of greenhouse gas emissions with institution size for colleges and universities in the United States

Ned Fetcher, Wilkes University


The purpose of this study was to determine how institution size and local climate affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Another objective was to find out how GHG emissions scale with institution size.  The American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) was used as a source for data on GHG emissions by 238 colleges and universities. Institutions were distributed among 45 states and included doctorate-granting universities, master's institutions, and baccalaureate colleges.


Using stepwise regression on log transformed emissions, a model was developed to predict GHG emissions (R2 = 0.911). Significant factors were log gross building area, July mean temperature, and January mean low temperature. Emissions scaled with gross building area with an exponent of 1.1 for doctorate-granting universities, indicating that emissions per unit building area increased with institution size. On the other hand, GHG emissions increased as a linear function of institution size for master's and baccalaureate institutions, .A model was also developed for emissions as a function of full-time equivalent (FTE) students, but the fit was poorer (R2 = 0.693). When the percentage of coal in the energy source for electric power generation was included in the regressions, it sometimes displaced January temperatures, with higher percentages resulting in higher emissions. This occurred because institutions with high percentages of coal as their electricity source were exposed to low January temperatures, which made it difficult to distinguish the effects of energy source from the effects of winter climate.