Estimating Williams College Cumulative Carbon Emissions


ZC is Hiring Interns to Estimate Williams College Cumulative Carbon Emissions

Call for Applications for paid Research Internships

— Up to 2 Positions Available Immediately —


Estimating Williams College Cumulative Carbon Emissions

Once the greenhouse gas CO2 has been emitted and enters the earth’s atmosphere, it persists there for a very protracted period, contributing on an ongoing basis to global warming with all its attendant harms. Even the portion of atmospheric CO2 ultimately absorbed by the oceans, historically roughly 30%, is not rendered harmless because that CO2, once absorbed, contributes to the ocean acidification that threatens the very existence of marine food chains. The persistence of anthropogenic CO2 emissions has its own “uncomfortable truth:” when it comes to CO2 emissions, we can’t escape our past. Some portion of every ton of CO2 that we have every emitted remains in the atmosphere, causing harm every year far into the distant future.. From the perspective of the future earth environment, we are not “carbon-neutral” even if we cut our emissions today to zero.

Our internship involves doing research to help produce an estimate of Williams’ cumulative CO2 emissions since the late 19th century. This will require assembling and analyzing data collected from several sources: Williams College annual budgets stored in the Williams Archives in Sawyer that list expenditures on various kinds of fuels and electricity by year; records kept by Williams Facilities Department for more recent years that describe expenditures on fuels and electricity, and in some cases, physical units of the various fuels purchased; historical data regarding the prices of various types of fuels in each year available in government documents and elsewhere; and historical data regarding the CO2-intensity of the electricity purchased by the college.

The responsibilities of the research interns are as follows:

  • Gathering and assembling in spreadsheet form the data described above;
  • Maintaining thorough and accurate documentation of all sources of data gathered, including in some cases making digital copies of old hard-copy records;
  • Developing estimates of physical fuel use by combining fuel expenditure data by year with yearly fuel price data, with appropriate attention to identifying the potential inaccuracies in the data;
  • Calculating the CO2 emissions associated with each of the various types of fuel use by year.
  • Maintaining regular contact with the research team, in particular Profs. Bradburd and Gibson.

Skills and Experiences:

  • Familiarity with spreadsheet software (e.g., MS Excel, Google sheets)
  • Attention to detail, especially in regards to data compilation and error checking (training will be provided)
  • Comfortable with archival and online data research and compiling information that exists in different formats and measurement units
  • Ability to work independently and proactive problem-solving

Hours per week:  The internship could be structured as either a 5-hour per week or a 10-hour per week project.

Interns will report to Ralph Bradburd, Matthew Gibson and Tanja Srebotnjak.

To apply please complete this form. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.