Boston University Study Cracks Carbon Code

Researchers at NEC member Boston University (BU) have recently developed a database to determining how to calculate the carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions of cars in a city. Their database, explained in a recently published study, can help cities determine the true level of greenhouse gas emissions and work more effectively to meet climate change goals.

Cars are a major part of a city’s total level of CO₂ emissions. Vehicles produced 28% of fossil fuel CO₂ emissions in 2012 and were responsible for almost half the growth of US emissions since 1990. The researchers at BU found a more precise way of calculating car emissions than that currently in use with help from grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE). They used 33 years of traffic data compiled by the Highway Performance Monitoring System to create a more detailed CO₂ emissions map than any previously produced. The database, called the Database of Road Transportation Emissions (DARTE), can show maps of car CO₂ emissions from any of the 48 contiguous US states.  Conor Gately, a PhD candidate at the university and the lead author of the study, said that he hopes cities can use the data to identify possible traffic changes which could lower emissions.

“The science is coming together to bring us very fine measurements in a way never possible before. We need good bottom-up data to match what we’re measuring looking down from space. That’s what we need to really advance greenhouse gas policies,” said Lucy Hutyra, an assistant professor and co-author of the study. She said that DARTE complements a NASA project measuring global atmospheric carbon data.

The New England Council applauds Boston University for its work in this very important area.

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