Google Earth Tool Provides Local CO2 Inventory

March 4, 2009

Localizing the effects of climate change remains challenging. But a new tool makes it easier to at least pin down the local sources of one of the main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide.

The inventory, which is presented on a Google Earth platform, was led by scientists at Purdue University, and has been named Vulcan. With a glance, you can see the relative total CO2 emissions of every county in the US, or get a county-level breakout for categories such as industry, electricity production, nonroad vehicles, and aircraft. The team is working on identification of emitters at the scale of individual buildings and streets.

The current data is based on 2002 information from sources such as EPA, the Dept. of Energy, and NASA; more current data, with updates every 6 months, and historical data are in the works. So is expansion of the information to Canada and Mexico, then to other countries.

In the US, there are dramatic differences in total emissions among counties, and the makeup of their contributing sources. Some counties are dominated by a source such as a power plant, and others by vehicle emissions, but some have a relatively even mix among the seven identified categories.

As climate change debates move forward, this tool can help you determine what role the counties, states, or regions of interest to your audience are playing in initial emissions of a key greenhouse gas, and how improvement efforts might be targeted locally. You can extract broadcast-quality images of Vulcan's information to enhance your story.