Carbon Emissions Traceable Back To Individual Buildings And Streets With New Hestia Software System

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Seeing how much carbon is emitted from specific buildings and streets is now possible because of a new software system called Hestia. The new system was developed to estimate the greenhouse gases being emitted from specific areas of an entire urban landscapes.


Hestia is the creation of researchers from Arizona Stare University, who wanted to make it possible to quantify carbon dioxide emissions at a much broader level than was allowed by previous technology.

The software system is the combination of enormous public databases filled by ‘data-mining’, traffic simulations, and building-by-building energy-consumption modeling. The high-resolution maps created by Hestia make it clear exactly where CO2 emissions are coming from in an urban landscape, allowing policymakers to appropiately make decisions.

“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 data used was gathered from a variety of sources: air pollution reports for local areas, traffic counts, energy usage reports, and tax assessor parcel information. It was then ingeniously combined within a modeling system to quantify carbon emissions at the detailed level of specific buildings and streets.

“So far, scientists have applied Hestia to the city of Indianapolis, and work is ongoing for the cities of 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. The Hestia research team believes this type of detailed emissions information will help determine what we as a society can do locally and globally about climate change.”

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

The unprecendented detail and accuracy that Hestia gives should allow policy makers to easily identify the most efficient places to invest in clean energy and carbon reductions, the researchers think.

“Leading in sustainability is not easy; however, as mayor, I am committed to doing so,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said. “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.”

“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.”

Here’s a final note from Arizona State University on the broader work being done in this arena: “Hestia is part of a larger effort that combines information about emissions with ground and satellite-based measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. It is now part of the INFLUX experiment in Indianapolis and is expected to complement NASA’s planned December 2013 launch of the Orbital Carbon Observatory satellite, which will measure the concentration of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere.”

Hestia is outlined in great detail in an article published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Source: Arizona State University
Image Credits: Bedrich Benes and Michel Abdul-Massih

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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