A Useful New Tool for Looking at Global Warming Emissions


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled a great new tool for learning more about specific sources of global warming pollution, such as power plants, refineries and landfills. EPA’s GHGData tool increases the transparency and user-friendliness of data the agency already collects. And not only is the data easy to find, but it is easy to share. 

Users can search by clicking on a map of the U.S. to zoom in on a particular area of interest. I used this feature to learn the name and annual emissions of a facility I saw from a Northern California freeway. It turned out to be the Redwood Landfill with annual emissions of nearly 175,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. 

I wondered how that compared to all other landfills in California, so with three clicks of the mouse I pulled up a list of all landfills in California, sorted by emission volume. The Redwood Landfill has the 9th highest emissions of the 112 California landfills in the database. EPA’s website allowed me to view the results by list (you'll have to click on the emissions header to sort the list), bar chartpie chart, and tree map. I’ve pasted links to these above, but could just have easily shared them via Tweet, email, Facebook, and any other number of social media tools that EPA has built into the website. 

There are some limitations to GHGData website. The website includes only those facilities with emissions of 25,000 metric tons or greater; it excludes smaller industrial plants and commercial operations. The website offers data from 2010 only, though more data will be added as EPA receives it and verifies its accuracy. While the social media sharing tools are great, I wish it were possible to download high resolution images from the website for use in print materials. 

EPA’s new website greatly improves the availability of emissions data for facilities that emit large volumes of global warming pollution, and I’ve love to see comparable accessibility developed for the other emissions data EPA collects.