Revealing a City’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions…One Building at a Time

A new project by researchers at Arizona State University has succeeded in creating visualizations of a city’s greenhouse gas emissions. The first test case of the new technology is Indianapolis.

Here’s the video the team made to showcase the technology:

It’s pretty impressive. If you can’t watch the video, here’s a summary: there’s a map of Indianapolis. During the day, 3-D bars representing emissions grow and then shrink at downtown office buildings. At night, much smaller bars light up the suburbs. But the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions are slightly outside the city, at the airport and a coal-fired power plant.

Kevin Gurney is a professor at ASU who helped design the program.

“I’ll be honest, I was surprised, frankly, at how dominant the power plant is,” he said. “I mean, everyone knows power plants have to emit a lot of CO2, they have to burn a lot of fuel. But it really was surprising how big it was; it really dominates the landscape.”

The program is called Hestia, after the Greek goddess of the hearth and home. It incorporates data from cities about property taxes, pollution and local traffic data to generate the visualizations. Gurney says he’s not in a position to advocate regulating greenhouse gases, but his program will provide information to help cities interested in reducing their emissions or offsetting local pollution.

Gurney says he wants the program to be available to any city that’s interested. If Louisville ever wants to regulate greenhouse gas emissions–or is just interested in what sources are contributing the most–this would be a useful tool.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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