Carbon Emissions Tracked To Individual Buildings
October 10, 2012

Arizona Researchers Map Carbon Emissions Down To Street Level

[ Watch the Video: Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions ]

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

Google may have provided a street level view of America, but researchers from Arizona State University are looking at what many of us don´t see at street level; namely the carbon dioxide emissions from individual buildings.

The climate scientists have created Hestia (named for the Greek goddess of hearth and home) a software based on three-dimensional maps that will detail greenhouse gas emissions for not only individual buildings, but also road segments and even power generators. The results of the study were published in an article in the October 9 issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

While Los Angeles and Phoenix are in the process of being mapped, the team previously provided a 3D map of Indianapolis. The researchers plan to eventually map all major cities in the United States as a guide for climate policymakers. Climate scientists claim that the United States could account for nearly one-quarter of all global CO2 emissions.

The 3D mapping system utilizes information from public databases, including local air pollution reports, traffic counts and even tax assessor parcel information. This is then combined with traffic simulations and energy consumption models, and researchers believe it could help identify the most effective places to cut emissions.

At present the United States has one method of actually measuring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases at the national level, but there currently remains little consistency at city and local levels.

“Cities have had little information with which to guide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — and you can´t reduce what you can´t measure,” said Kevin Gurney, associate professor at ASU´s School of Life Sciences and senior scientist with the Global Institute of Sustainability. “With Hestia, we can provide cities with a complete, three-dimensional picture of where, when and how carbon dioxide emissions are occurring.”

The team has focused on mapping major cities as a matter of demographics, as 50 percent of the world´s populations lived in cities in 2010, and that segment is expected to grow to 68 percent by 2050.

While carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas, it is considered the most significant by climate scientists as it is believed to remain in the atmosphere for hundreds or thousands of years. The Hestia team´s goal is to help cities and possibly even nations identify where an investment in energy and greenhouse gas saving might have the greatest impact.

The study has already inspired at least one city leader to think about taking a closer look at the impact of greenhouse gases.

“Leading in sustainability is not easy; however, as Mayor, I am committed to doing so,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “Undoubtedly, Hestia will be a good tool to help us make more informed decisions as leaders in Phoenix and the Valley around issues of air quality, health and a sustainable future.”

The team reportedly believes this is just the beginning.

“These results may also help overcome current barriers to the United States joining an international climate change treaty,” added Gurney. “Many countries are unwilling to sign a treaty when greenhouse gas emission reductions cannot be independently verified.”