Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gallaher, Courtney M.

Second Advisor

Song, Jie

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment


The urgent need to address the destructive effects of climate change globally through mitigation and adaptation is clear. A useful tool for climate change mitigation is a greenhouse gas emissions inventory, which can be used to benchmark current emission levels and create future reduction goals. Emissions inventories in the United States are not currently required by the federal government, but many cities are nonetheless choosing to conduct these inventories and adopt greenhouse gas reduction goals. Inventory tools vary in terms of the methodologies behind emissions calculations, and previous studies have noted the comparability and consistency issue among inventories. This mixed-methods study uses the results of the 2018 emissions inventory from DeKalb, Illinois, along with qualitative interviews with inventory compilers across the U.S., to provide insight into challenges and best practices for completing local emissions inventories. Overall DeKalb produced 628,780 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent which equates to roughly 14.76 metric tons/person/year. We demonstrate using the ClearPath inventory tool that there is relatively little variability in total metric tons of GHG emissions calculated using different IPCC assessment global warming potential values in the inventory (largest variation is < 9% when updating to the 5th assessment 20-year GWP values, but variation resulting between other GWP options is typically only about 1%), although water and waste sectors demonstrate greater variability between GWP choices (10-400% variation) than do the energy and transportation sectors (roughly 1% variation). Additionally, using DeKalb’s inventory as a case study, we find that for smaller contributing sectors such as waste and water, large variations in the input data (75%) result in relatively small changes (<5%) to the total emissions calculations, whereas smaller variations (25%) in the input data of bigger sectors such as energy and transportation result in greater changes to the total emissions (15% and 9%, respectively). Because completing a greenhouse gas inventory is time and labor intensive, we recommend that cities complete more frequent inventories of only major emissions sectors, with periodic inventories of all contributing sectors, as an adequate way to gauge general progress on greenhouse gas reduction goals. It is far more important that inventories be created and used for emission reductions than that every minute detail is perfect.


76 pages




Northern Illinois University

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