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Research Update: First major study of urban CO2 emissions from down under

A GNS Science team led by Radiocarbon Science Leader Dr Jocelyn Turnbull will be collaborating on the first major study of CO2 emissions from Southern Hemisphere cities over the next two years.

Jocelyn Turnbull

The collaboration with the University of Melbourne will establish new ways to estimate urban fossil fuel CO2 emission estimates for Melbourne and Auckland. Melbourne was chosen as it has a well-established air sampling infrastructure and Auckland because it is New Zealand’s largest city.

“We have been funded by GNS to do an Auckland study that will essentially mirror the Melbourne study. The capability we develop could also be used in other cities around the world,” Jocelyn says.

“Our work will provide detailed information about the source of emissions, and the changes in these emissions over time. This will provide valuable information for policymakers looking to reduce emissions from cities.

“CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion are the primary cause of the current observed global warming. The vast majority of those emissions are from urban areas,” Jocelyn says.

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We know that trees and other urban greenery removes some carbon from the atmosphere but how much is removed is virtually unknown. We aim to change that.

Dr Jocelyn Turnbull

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“There are strong incentives for cities to reduce their emissions, not only to mitigate climate change but also to improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels.”

The research will also help urban planners understand how their land use can help reduce their net carbon emissions.

“We know that trees and other urban greenery removes some carbon from the atmosphere but how much is removed is virtually unknown. We aim to change that.“

The study will bring together Australian urban atmospheric modelling capabilities with our expertise in atmospheric measurement, both of which are needed to assess fossil fuel CO2 emission rates.

Jocelyn and her team’s role will be to collect and measure air samples from around both cities to determine the amount of fossil fuel derived CO2 present. This work utilises GNS’s Rafter Radiocarbon Lab high precision atmospheric measurement capability developed over the last five years.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Catalyst funding will contribute $40,000 towards the cost of the radiocarbon sampling needed for the work.