A team of researchers from Arizona State University have developed a new software system that is capable of estimating greenhouse gas emissions across entire urban landscapes, all the way down to street level and individual buildings. The project, known as Hestia after the Greek goddess of home and hearth, allows the team to combine extensive public database “data-mining” with traffic simulation and building-by-building energy-consumption modeling.

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The team’s research was presented in an article published in Environmental Science and Technology. The example images provided by the Arizona team clearly identify CO2 emission sources that, it is hoped, will be able to inform and educate both the policymakers and the public.

“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, an associate professor in 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 Arizona team also collected data from a wide variety of sources such as local air pollution reports, traffic counts, and tax assessor parcel information. The data was then combined within a modeling system for quantifyingCO emissions at the level of individual buildings and street segments.

The team have so far only applied the system to the city of Indianapolis, but they are hoping it to soon test it on Los Angeles and Phoenix. They hope to ultimately map the CO2 emissions in all major cities across the United States, which accounts for nearly one-quarter of all global CO2 emissions.

“As a community, we must take a leadership role in sustaining our relationship with the environment,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “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.”

According to researchers, Hestia’s increased detail and accuracy will help cities, and possibly even other nations, identify where an investment in energy and greenhouse gas savings would have the greatest impact.

Although climate change presents society with tough challenges, Gurney believes this new system enables concrete, positive steps towards mitigating the problem. “Hestia offers practical  information we can use to identify the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions and track progress over time,” Gurney said. “Scientists have spent decades describing the seriousness of climate change. Now, we are offering practical information to help do something about it.”

Click below to watch a video of the system in action.


+ Arizona State University

via BBC News