Tackling Climate Change Using Real-Time Monitoring of Urban Greenhouse Gases

A request has been sent to policymakers as well as city and regional government leaders to find out the way in which real-time monitoring of urban greenhouse gases (GHGs) could help them in their measures to address climate change.

Tackling Climate Change Using Real-time Monitoring of Urban Greenhouse Gases.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/ ssuaphotos

The “Cities are the Key to the Climate Solution” Summit arranged by the Global Environmental Measurement and Monitoring (GEMM) Initiative will display a pilot urban air quality monitoring project in Glasgow as the city will be conducting the COP26 climate change conference in November.

The project is fixing a dense network of 25 sensors that monitor the levels of GHGs and particulate matter throughout Glasgow in real-time.

Data gathered from the network of sensors, linked with “inverse modeling”, can help determine sources of GHG emissions. This offers policymakers and city leaders data to help them choose climate change policies and note their impact almost instantly.

At present, the majority of the data available on GHG emissions has been evaluated depending on the consumption of fossil fuels and is only available months or years later, whereas sensor networks provide the chance for direct and real-time atmospheric observations.

The GEMM Initiative-assisted project is a partnership between the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow City Council, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley), Optica (formerly OSA), the American Geophysical Union, the Met Office and the National Physical Laboratory.

The “Cities are the Key to the Climate Solution” Summit will present these new technologies and methodologies for the tracking of GHG emissions and air pollutants in real-time. This will also take into account the legal and economic views of adopting this method and will feature a roundtable discussion on the opportunities and difficulties that are faced by the cities in addressing GHGs and air pollution reduction goals.

The hybrid summit to be conducted both online and in-person, taking place on November 3rd in Strathclyde’s Technology & Innovation Center and feature speakers including Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, David Miller, Director of International Diplomacy at C40 Cities, Professor Donna Strickland, 2018 Nobel Laureate in Physics and Professor Guy Brasseur of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.

Optica and AGU — international scientific societies collaborating under the GEMM Initiative — are working with policymakers globally on new technology and scientific developments for local impact.

We want to make city leaders aware of this technology, the opportunities it brings, and encourage them to set up their own sensor network projects. Recent deployments of low-cost, high-density sensors across several cities around the world are demonstrating the utility of mapping GHG and air pollution levels in real-time,” stated Tom Baer, co-lead and Director of Stanford Photonics Research Center at Stanford University, USA.

Cities account for more than 70% of all GHG emissions and therefore have a key role to play in taking measures to tackle climate change. Indeed, many cities around the world are already committing to action and have set net-zero targets, including Glasgow.

Allister Ferguson, Project Co-Lead and Professor, University of Strathclyde

Ferguson added, “Analyses of COVID-19 emissions reductions during government stay-at-home orders have shown that determining the emission contributions from various source sectors with detailed mapping and timing across the full daily cycle are possible and can provide invaluable information on governmental policies affecting GHG emission levels.”

The Glasgow pilot project makes use of the GHG sensors designed by Professor Ron Cohen at UC Berkeley which cost a fraction of the price of conventional monitoring stations.

Professor Cohen has been running a big network of sensors in the San Francisco Bay area for eight years as part of the BEACO2N project. During the “shelter-in-place” orders imposed in California due to the COVID-19, he was able to observe how the decrease in vehicular traffic impacted the CO2 emissions in the area.

When the COVID ‘shelter-in-place’ order began in California, almost immediately there was a tremendous reduction in CO2 emissions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Regional carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 25%, almost all of it due to a nearly 50% drop in road traffic.

Ron Cohen, Professor, University of California, Berkeley

Cohen continued, “It really allowed us to test our ideas of how much of the CO2 is from industry and how much is from cars. This is what it would look like for CO2 if we electrified the vehicle fleet.”

The implication is that emissions on the roads could be changed quickly and dramatically by policy, and we have a tool to follow that relatively quickly. This is the way to know we are on track to meet our goals,” added Cohen.

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