Greenhouse gases

New Tech Attempts to Map Out Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Can show it at a street or neighborhood level

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One of the biggest problems with climate change is that, at least in the short term, it's largely invisible. Unlike many other environmental calamities—say, oil spills or forest fires—we simply can't see the carbon dioxide that we emit when we drive a car or turn on an air conditioner.

Scientists can quantify the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted by a country, city or power plant, but it's cognitively difficult to take that number and picture the actual impact of our actions on the long-term health of the climate. This factor, perhaps more than any other, has prevented significant action on climate change.

Now, software has been designed to make greenhouse gas emissions something we can actually see. In the Hestia Project, presented in a paper published yesterday in Environmental Science and Technology, researchers from Arizona State University created a technology that maps emissions at the street and neighborhood level, painting a rich picture of a city's greenhouse gas metabolism. With their maps and videos—currently available for the city of Indianapolis—you can look at specific airports, roads and buildings and see how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases each entity emits.

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