By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Residents in the Missoula metropolitan area emitted more than 913,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2014, with transportation representing the largest single source at 37 percent, according to a new report.

That means each of the study area's 84,000 individuals contributed roughly 10.8 metric tons of CO2 equivalents during one study year.

“We know climate change will be hard on our wildlife, our health and vulnerable people,” Amy Cilimburg with Climate Smart Missoula said on Monday. “We do need to go big and figure out how some of largest energy consumers can make a change. If everyone does something, it all adds up.”

The findings are detailed in the new Missoula Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, released last week by Climate Smart Missoula.

The 17-page report represents the first detailed look at the many ways city residents contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, from their trips to the store, to their homes and offices and the trash they throw away.

According to the report, transportation accounted for 37 percent of the CO2 released in the Missoula metropolitan area in 2014, followed by commercial energy at 28 percent and residential energy at 24 percent.

Solid waste accounted for 9 percent while industrial energy contributed 2 percent.

“Transportation is a big part of our pie, especially given that we have a free bus and bike lanes,” said Cilimburg. “There's an opportunity to do better in each of those pieces of the pie, both as a community but also as an individual.”

According to the figures, “on road” gasoline used by cars, trucks and motorcycles accounted for 72 percent of all transportation emissions, or nearly 23 percent of Missoula's total output. On road diesel accounted for 15 percent, followed by Montana Rail Link at 10 percent and the airport at 3 percent.

If half of the cars were taken off the road for a year, the study suggests that Missoula would cut its carbon emissions by more than 257,000 metric tons. Even so, Cilimburg admits that changing behaviors won't be easy.

“People driving around in their own truck or car just adds up, and I was surprised that it was such a big piece of the pie,” said Cilimburg. “It's such a focal point of our community and this shows we're not done. I like the way it gives us an opportunity to shrink the whole pie.”

The inventory accounts for sources of carbon emissions across the city in 2014 and comes on the heels of the city's own Conservation and Climate Action Plan. Adopted in 2013, that effort committed to reducing emissions each year with a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.


While efforts are underway in city government to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions, the study notes that residential energy use remains an area for improvement. Even so, there has been no comprehensive community-wide effort to reduce residential energy use, though Cilimburg said that will change.

“We're in the process of trying to figure that out,” she said. “Do we need incentives? A competition? It's hard to get every person behind this, but we've heard from the community that people want to do more on this issue. They want more clean energy and they want to address climate change. We can provide those opportunities.”

Residential energy use accounted for 24 percent of the total carbon output, according to the study. Of that, roughly 52 percent came from natural gas, 48 percent from electricity and less than one percent from wood-burning stoves.

“It's a baseline report, and it's most meaningful to look at how we do over time and how we collectively come together to find solutions,” said Cilimburg.


Contact reporter Martin Kidston at