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New Software Maps Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Individual Buildings

Oct 10, 2012 08:11 AM EDT
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Researchers have created a new software system to estimate the rate of greenhouse gas emissions for the entire urban landscape, including roads and individual buildings.

A team of researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) have developed the new system, dubbed as "Hestia", after the Greek goddess of the hearth and home.

They used traffic condition records, tax assessor parcel information, local air pollution reports, computer modeling and other data to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide emissions for individual buildings and street segments.

This is the first time the researchers have come out with a detailed account of the CO2 emissions in urban areas. The three-dimensional map will help in learning where and how emissions are occurring.

"Cities have had little information with which to guide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions - and you can't reduce what you can't measure," Kevin Gurney, an associate professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences, and Hestia's lead scientist said in a statement.

"With Hestia, we can provide cities with a complete, three-dimensional picture of where, when and how carbon dioxide emissions are occurring," he said.

Until now, researchers have applied the new system to the city of Indianapolis. They completed mapping the CO2 emissions for the city. CO2 is one of the major greenhouse gases that remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.

Experts are currently working on the system to map greenhouse emissions for other cities including Los Angeles and Phoenix. They hope the system will be used to map emissions in all major cities in the United States to help take steps in curbing them. U.S. is one of the largest emitters of CO2.

"This research, and its implications for global engagement regarding climate change, is an exciting step forward. Hestia gives us the next tool we need to help policymakers create effective greenhouse gas legislation," said ASU President Michael M. Crow.

"These results may also help overcome current barriers to the United States joining an international climate change treaty, said Gurney.

Gurney added that many countries are not ready to sign the treaty until they independently verify the emission of greenhouse gases.

Details of the software system are available in the report, "Quantification of Fossil Fuel CO2 Emissions on the Building/Street Scale for a Large U.S. City," published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. 

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