Last night at Frontier Café, students in the Environmental Studies Capstone Project (Environmental Studies 301) gave the last of three climate action plan presentations for the Towns of Brunswick and Topsham. Over 60 Bowdoin students, faculty members, and town residents attended.

Program Director of Environmental Science and Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Biology Phil Camill described the class as "a new kind a seminar" in which students worked with members of the community to design their plans.

Camill described a climate action plan as "a fancy name for a two step process" which involves identifying the top producers of green house gas emissions and then designing a plan for lowering overall emissions.

In their final presentation, students spent the initial portion reviewing the carbon inventories for both towns before going into great detail on the specific plans for carbon emission reduction.

Over the course of the class, the 16 students worked on plans, that if put into action, would reduce the levels of green house gas emissions reported in 2008 by 20 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050 for both Brunswick and Topsham.

During the planning stage, the class worked with different community groups from both Brunswick and Topsham including town planners, the Recycling and Sustainability Committee in Brunswick and the town councils.

In order to develop the climate action plans, the students focused on specific "sectors" such as transportation, residences, industry, commercial and waste that are major producers of emissions.

"The Holy Grail is transportation," said Camill. "This is going to be absolutely key: Getting electric cars on the road."

Transportation contributed 55 percent of Brunswick's overall emissions in 2008 and 77 percent of Topsham's; plans to make transportation greener comprised a significant portion of the presentation.

Ross Cowman '12, an environmental studies and Spanish coordinate major, commented on the importance of "substantive changes" in the transportation sector.

"You have to make big transformative changes in transportation," said Cowman.

"The world is going to change really fast in five years," Camill said, citing Chevy's upcoming debut of the electric Volt car.

The key to the success of electric cars rests in mastering their batteries. Camill explained that the battery is the same type that is used in cell phones: the lithium ion battery.

Until electric cars become accessible, however, car-pooling and overall reduction are especially important, stressed the student presenters.

Camill and students look to the upcoming Brunswick Explorer buses and possible Amtrak train stop in the Brunswick area as signs of positive change.

The work in the class extended far beyond the transportation sector, though, as different groups concentrated on separate sectors and their individual energy related issues in both towns.

Senior Ashley Peterson's group primarily focused on the Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Peterson explained that although the base is set to close in 2011, her group had to develop a plan that would account for any changes that the particular area might undergo over coming years.

As Cowman shared during the presentation, the Naval Air Station's aviation fuels account for a surprising 20 percent of all of Brunswick's emissions.

"More efficient applications and more efficient lighting" were two of the changes Peterson mentioned that would contribute to help bring about a "drastic reduction" in carbon emissions.

For example, the presenters said, switching to compact flourescent (CLF) light bulbs, which are 75 percent more efficient than regular lighting options, can make a big difference in the commercial sector.

The class's work will not stop with their presentation at Frontier, according to Sam Hankinson '10.

"There will always be better ways to refine the data," he said.

"This is the beginning of a discussion," said presenter Maryellen Hearn '11.