How Polluted Is Your City?
We all know that global warming is caused by greenhouse gases, largely carbon dioxide, that is emitted by everything ranging from home appliances and SUV's to the heating and lighting systems of office buildings. But since we don't see the gas, most of us simply shake our heads in dismay and then continue on with our bad habits. Now, researchers at Arizona State University are trying to change that.
Spearheaded by associate professor Kevin Gurney, The Hestia Project's main goal is to make something that is currently intangible into something a little more tangible, by allowing all of us to visually see how much each and everyone of us is 'contributing' to global warming.
In order to obtain a complete picture of the city's environment, the team begins by compiling data from multiple sources, ranging from property filings to EPA and even DMV records. Then, using special software they lump the emissions into three categories - commercial entities (office buildings and power and industrial plants), households and vehicles.
This is the stage where things start to get really interesting. That's because instead of showing all this information using boring graphs that we all instantly lose interest in, they create an interactive visual 'film', that depicts not just the carbon emitted by each entity, but also the exact location it is coming from and the also the amount, which varies depending on the time of day or season. So for example, the car emissions during rush hour are the highest as is the case for commercial buildings during the day, especially during winter months when the heating is on.
Kevin knows that some of the data revealed may start a blame game among the residents of the city. However, he is hoping that the people will go beyond that and instead use it to make changes in their daily lives or that city planners will use it to improve energy efficiency by adding insulation programs in buildings that reveal the highest rates of carbon dioxide output.
So far, the team has just tracked the emissions for the city of Indianapolis. They are next planning to do the same for Phoenix and Los Angelesand then hopefully all the other cities, not just in the U.S. but also, across the globe. If each city works on reducing their emissions by just 10%, it could go a long way in reversing global warming, something we all know needs to be done, before it's too late.
Resources: fastcoexist.com, inhabitat.com