Environmental Insights Explorer Tool For Pittsburgh, USA

Estimate a city’s carbon footprint with Google maps

On September 10th, Google launched an online tool that can estimate the carbon footprint of a city. The tool estimates carbon emissions from all the buildings and transportation in the city. In addition, the tool evaluates the rooftop solar potential of the city buildings.

The tool is called the Environmental Insights Explorer and was created in partnership with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.   The purpose of Environmental Insights Explorer is to help cities estimate their carbon emissions for free. Nicole Lombardo, leader of partnerships for Google’s environmental insights team, explained: “This is looking at the thousands of cities that are out there today that don’t typically have the resources to spend on digging up the data or analyzing the data.”

Solar potential estimate with Project Sunroof
Image: Estimation of rooftop solar potential by Project Sunroof. (source)

Environmental Insights Explorer also includes Project Sunroof, another part of Google Sustainability initiatives. Project Sunroof assesses how much solar energy can be harvested if solar panels were installed on specific roofs. Project Sunroof analyzes weather data and takes into account nearby trees to determine how much sunlight falls on a roof. Then the program calculates how much energy would be gathered by solar panels. Thus the cities can determine where an investment in solar panels would be wise.

Environmental Insights Explorer tool offers a possibility to customize the data used for estimations. This way the cities can make projections of how the emissions would change if certain changes where to take place. For example, how would new buildings or a new public transport line affect the carbon footprint of the city. This enables the cities to determine the best course of action for the future.

Environmental Insights Explorer: GUI for adjusting values
Image: User interface for adjusting values which are used for estimating emissions. (source)

So far, Environmental Insights Explorer is in beta version and the analysis was made for only a few cities. Google invited the cities to offer suggestions regarding the tool and to help provide accurate data. On the tool’s website, the team wrote:  “We know more accurate data may exist for some locations and methodologies and assumptions mean that the results can vary significantly. Over time, the calculations can improve. For now, taking action on climate change can’t wait, so we hope to accelerate the move from measurement to action.”

Photo source: insights.sustainability.google

Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/90233731/a-new-use-for-google-maps-calculating-a-citys-carbon-footprint

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