An emerging GHG estimation approach can help cities achieve their climate and sustainability goals

K. L. Mueller, T. Lauvaux, K. R. Gurney, G. Roest, S. Ghosh, S. M. Gourdji, A. Karion, P. DeCola, J. Whetstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


A credible assessment of a city's greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation policies requires a valid account of a city's emissions. However, questions persist as to whether cities' 'self-reported inventories' (SRIs) are accurate, precise, and consistent enough to track progress toward city mitigation goals. Although useful for broad policy initiatives, city SRIs provide annual snapshots that may have limited use to city managers looking to develop targeted mitigation policies that overlap with other issues like equity, air quality, and human health. An emerging approach from the research community that integrates 'bottom-up' hourly, street-level emission data products with 'top-down' GHG atmospheric observations have begun to yield production-based (scope 1) GHG estimates that can track changes in emissions at annual and sub-annual timeframes. The use of this integrated approach offers a much-needed assessment of SRIs: the atmospheric observations are tied to international standards and the bottom-up information incorporates multiple overlapping socio-economic data. The emissions are mapped at fine scales which helps link them to attribute information (e.g. fuel types) that can further facilitate mitigation actions. Here, we describe this approach and compare results to the SRI from the City of Indianapolis which shows a yearly difference of 35% in scope 1 emissions. In the City of Baltimore, we show that granular emission information can help address multiple issues, e.g. GHG emissions, air pollution, and inequity, at the sub-zip code scale where many roots and causes for each issue exist. Finally, we show that the incorporation of atmospheric concentrations within an integrated system provides rapid, near-real-time feedback on CO2 emissions anomalies that can uncover important behavioral and economic relationships. An integrated approach to GHG monitoring, reporting and verification can ensure uniformity, and provide accuracy to city-scale GHG emissions, scalable to states and the nation-ultimately helping cities meet stated ambitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number084003
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Approaches
  • Carbon accounting
  • Cities
  • Emissions
  • GHG mitigation targets
  • GHG observations
  • Greenhouse gas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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