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Boffins build program to HUNT DOWN CO2 polluters where they LIVE

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Environment-loving boffins have developed a software capable of pointing the accusatory finger of carbon-emitting blame at individual buildings.

Hestia's hourly, building-by-building map of CO2 emissions in Indianapolis

The program, named Hestia after the Greek goddess of the home, can map CO2 emissions across urban landscapes and narrow them down to streets or certain homes using public databases, traffic simulation and building-by-building energy consumption modelling.

"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 Arizona State University's School of Life Sciences and Hestia's chief scientist.

"With Hestia, we can provide cities with a complete, three-dimensional picture of where, when and how carbon dioxide emissions are occurring."

Local air pollution reports, traffic counts and tax assessor information has all been pulled into to the modelling system, which the researchers hope will help towns and cities to do what they can about climate change but will probably be used by City A as a reason not to do anything at all about it until City B, a much worse emitter, does something first.

"As a community, we must take a leadership role in sustaining our relationship with the environment," ASU President Michael Crow said hopefully. "This research, and its implications for global engagement regarding climate change, is an exciting step forward. Hestia gives us the next tool we need to help policy-makers create effective greenhouse gas legislation."

The boffins have already mapped Indianapolis in Indiana and are working on Los Angeles, California and Phoenix, Arizona at the moment. They're hoping that eventually they can do all the major cities in the US, which accounts for nearly a quarter of all global CO2 emissions.

"These results may also help overcome current barriers to the United States joining an international climate change treaty," Gurney said. "Many countries are unwilling to sign a treaty when greenhouse gas emission reductions cannot be independently verified." ®

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