A lot of cities have ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But to achieve those goals, they first need to know exactly how much carbon pollution they produce now and where it comes from.

“It’s very important for them to have accurate numbers to be able to keep track of where they’re at,” Kevin Gurney says.

He and his team at Northern Arizona University have developed a tool called Vulcan, which he says can help.

To create the tool, the researchers analyzed publicly available data on carbon emissions from power plants, factories, buildings, and vehicles across the entire United States in detail in space and time.

“You go down to, you know, factories and road segments and census tracts all across the United States to get a good estimate of the CO2 emissions,” Gurney says.

So far, Vulcan has been used primarily by scientists. But the researchers have made it publicly available. And Gurney says it could help cities across the country accurately and consistently measure their emissions: “So that cities can know when they’ve achieved the goals that they’ve set out, or if they’re perhaps off their critical path, so that they can get that information rapidly and know what to do to make a course correction,” he says.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.