GCSC Seminar Preview: Measuring Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Images generated by the Hestia project, which aims to quantify carbon emissions at the city level.

Images generated by the Hestia project, which aims to quantify carbon emissions at the city level.

By Hilary Smith, Sustainability Resource Center

It has been difficult for scientists to quantify anthropogenic, or human-caused, carbon emissions. Many different tactics have been used in the attempt to figure out just how much carbon enters the atmosphere due to human inputs, particularly as carbon dioxide.

Measurement techniques have included remote sensing, aircraft- and ground-based atmospheric measurements, and data mining, and research has taken place at a range of scales: from a planetary scope down to city, street, and building-level.

Once carbon emission baselines and emission reductions have been quantified, one large challenge remains: how to communicate that information effectively, in ways that decision makers and other stakeholders can understand and use.

Arizona State University atmospheric scientist, ecologist and policy expert Kevin Gurney. Photo: http://gurney.faculty.asu.edu/people.php

Arizona State University atmospheric scientist, ecologist and policy expert Kevin Gurney. Photo: http://gurney.faculty.asu.edu

Tuesday, from 4 to 5 p.m., Arizona State University professor, atmospheric scientist, and ecologist Kevin Gurney will address these topics, as the last speaker in the Global Change & Sustainability Center fall seminar series. Gurney’s talk is entitled “Revisiting anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions: how new science can enable reductions from the building to the globe.”

Gurney’s research with the Gurney Lab at ASU, along with additional research partners, includes a variety of carbon emission quantification efforts. One, the Fossil Fuel Data Assimilation System, or FFDAS, has aimed to “quantify 15 years worth of carbon dioxide emissions, every hour, for the entire planet, down to the city scale,” according to a September press release. The FFDAS, a data-rich process, creates maps of carbon emissions using “information from satellite feeds in addition to national fuel accounts and a new global database on power plants,” according to the release. This emissions information, more accurate and geographically and chronologically specific than any other measurement to date, is crucial in that it provides independent, scientific baselines to be used in policy decisions, the FFDAS site explains.

Two of Gurney’s group’s other projects, Vulcan and Hestia, aim to quantify carbon emissions at contintental (North American) and urban scales, respectively.

An image generated by the Hestia project, which aims to quantify human-caused carbon emissions at the city level. Image: http://hestia.project.asu.edu/newsroom.shtml

An image generated by the Hestia project, which aims to quantify human-caused carbon emissions at the city level. Image: http://hestia.project.asu.edu/newsroom.shtml

Hestia, the most area-specific carbon emission quantification tool to come out of Gurney’s research, has thus far studied emissions in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, and work is underway to add Salt Lake City to the mix.

The talk is free and open to the public and will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, in 295 FASB (Sutton Building).

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