NAU Study Indicates That U.S. Cities Underestimate Their Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Nearly 20 Percent on Average


Cities have become critical players in reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are causing global climate change.

Urban areas produce almost 70 percent of those emissions, and city governments are proposing a variety of policy actions aimed at reducing them. Many cities also produce inventories that detail their greenhouse gas emissions.

Now, professor Kevin Gurney of Northern Arizona University’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems and colleagues have compared the self-reported emissions inventories published by 48 major U.S. cities to estimates from a state-of-the-art emissions information system. As described in Nature Communications, Gurney and his research collaborators found large differences and a systematic under-reporting of urban emissions by cities.

Gurney, who specializes in atmospheric science, ecology and climate policy, has spent two decades developing a standardized system for quantifying greenhouse gas emissions under his Vulcan and Hestia Projects. The system, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), quantifies and visualizes greenhouse gases emitted across the entire country down to individual power plants, neighborhoods and roadways.

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