So far it’s been hard for forward-thinking cities to estimate their carbon emissions at a very detailed level, but new software developed by Arizona State University (ASU) could make the job easier.
Hestia (after the Greek goddess of hearth and home) can measure and provide a 3-D map of carbon emissions across entire urban landscapes, down to individual roads and buildings – enabling municipal leaders to target their efforts much more tightly.
"Hestia will quantify, simulate and visualize the metabolism of greenhouse gas emitting activity down to the building and street level," says the website.
Researchers combined information from publicly available databases with sophisticated simulation processes that depict traffic flow and building-by-building energy consumption.
Its high-resolution maps clearly identify carbon emission sources in a way that policymakers can use and the public can understand.
“Cities have had little information with which to guide reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – and you can’t reduce what you can’t measure,” says 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.”
Watch this video to see how Hestia works:
Currently, Hestia shows data only on Indianapolis, and will soon expand to Los Angeles and Phoenix. The long-term toal is to map CO2 emissions for all major US cities – which collectively account for almost 25% of global CO2 emissions.
"These results may also help overcome current barriers to the United States joining an international climate change treaty," notes Gurney. "Many countries are unwilling to sign a treaty when greenhouse gas emission reductions cannot be independently verified."
Hestia is one of a new brand of sophisticated mapping applications that use public data to guide decisions about clean energy and energy efficiency initiatives. Many of these tools are a result of partnerships between industry and NGOs.
One vivid example is the Solar Energy Hub in New York City that is driven by IBM software – it maps the output of every solar system in the city in real time, as well as the solar resources available on every single building.
An online wind mapping resource developed by The Nature Conservancy and the American Wind Wildlife Institute helps wind developers locate endangered species and critical habitat data that influence siting decisions.
IBM is applying numerous resources to similar tools for municipal governments through its Smarter Cities Initiative. It’s software is also being used in Ireland to measure how much noise wave energy makes in the ocean.
Here’s the Hestia website: