Google Targets Climate Change Solutions in Environmental Platform
UN Photo/Kibae Park/Sipa Press
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Google, in partnership with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, launched the Environmental Insights Explorer tool to give cities easy access to climate-relevant data.

The tool uses Google Maps and other Google services to calculate transportation emissions, building emissions and rooftop solar potential in a standardized format.

14 September 2018: Google, in partnership with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM), has launched the Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE). The EIE is a tool designed to give cities easy access to climate-relevant data so they can make evidence-based decisions about the environment. Currently in beta testing, the EIE is founded on the idea that “data and technologies can help accelerate the actions, industries and investments that enable the world’s transition to low-carbon future.”

The EIE uses information commonly found in Google Maps, such as building footprints, building typologies, street-level imagery and historical data, and aggregates this information to a city scale. Using this information, along with additional datasets, the EIE employs standardized methods to calculate information related to climate change.

Data are currently available for five pilot cities: Buenos Aires (Argentina), Melbourne (Australia), Victoria (Canada), Mountain View (US) and Pittsburgh (US). Data for each of these cities are organized in three categories: building emissions, transportation emissions and energy offset potential. Within each of these categories are supplementary indicators that were developed in collaboration with the GCoM, who helped Google connect with cities around the world to understand what data they required to reduce their emissions.

By introducing solar power onto flat roofs, the city of Victoria could reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 7,660 vehicles off the road for a year.

Within the building emissions category, users can explore estimated carbon emissions by residential and non-residential buildings. Beyond displaying this information in a map, the EIE also provides suggested actions for reducing emissions, such as lighting upgrades and rooftop solar power, and calculates the potential impacts of these investments. This potential can be further explored in the energy offset potential category. In the case of Victoria, for example, the EIE estimates that by introducing solar power onto flat roofs, the city could reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 7,660 vehicles off the road for a year, or growing 929,000 seedlings over 10 years.

Under the transportation emissions category, users can view the estimated emissions produced by mode of transport and the differences between in-bound and out-bound traffic. For cities interested in reducing their transportation emissions, the EIE provides links to implementing electric vehicle charging stations or introducing a car-free downtown. All the data are also available for download in a comma-separated values (CSV) format, including the metadata for the indicator.

By providing all this information in an online platform, the EIE aims to bring “data analytics to conversations about renewable energy.” While EIE has brought this information to fruition in five cities, Google plans on launching similar datasets for thousands of cities and towns around the world.

The EIE was launched during the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco, US. [Environmental Insights Explorer] [Google Earth Blog Post] [GCAS Announcements]


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