Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tracking Greenhouse Gas Emissions – New EPA Map!

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new map for tracking greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions from major industrial sources across the United States.

Under the Clean Air Act, and the “Massachusetts v. EPA” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007, the EPA has the authority to regulate pollution from major industrial facilities.  GHGs, defined by the EPA as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), are considered to be pollutants by the courts and the EPA when emitted in huge quantities by these “major” sources.

On the map, you can view the emissions of facilities like power plants and landfills, and compare and contrast states, zip codes, facilities, etc.  It really is a well-designed (if a bit “full of information”) map!

According to the EPA, these GHGs contribute to the Greenhouse Effect which is defined as:

Trapping and build-up of heat in the atmosphere (troposphere) near the Earth’s surface. Some of the heat flowing back toward space from the Earth's surface is absorbed by water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, and several other gases in the atmosphere and then reradiated back toward the Earth’s surface. If the atmospheric concentrations of these greenhouse gases rise, the average temperature of the lower atmosphere will gradually increase.

This Greenhouse Effect, coupled with ocean currents and other natural processes that distribute heat across the globe, contribute to Climate Change, defined by the EPA as:

Any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer).

Climate change may result from, according to the EPA:
  • natural factors, such as changes in the sun's intensity or slow changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun;
  • natural processes within the climate system (e.g. changes in ocean circulation);
  • activities that change the atmosphere's composition (e.g. through burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g. deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification, etc.) 

So check out the map!

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