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Crowdsourcing “Game” Helps Map Global CO2 Emissions

In order to help inform researchers with global carbon modeling, a combination crowdsourcing app and game aims to get a better grasp of the impact of the world’s 30,000 power plants.

When gathering data on something so obvious, such as large power plants, it’s not as easy as you’d think, and in order to better understand where carbon dioxide emissions are coming from, climate researchers are asking for help from the crowd.

Researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) have launched what they’re calling the first of its kind – an online game that turns participants into citizen scientists by rewarding contributors while gathering information about power plant locations and emissions.

“Power plants burning fossil fuels constitute over 40% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the Earth’s atmosphere every year. Carbon dioxide is the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

Information regarding where the world’s power plants are located and how much each one is emitting is not well-known outside of the US and a handful of industrial countries. In order for basic research on climate change and the global carbon cycle to move forward, we need this information.” – Ventus

Of the world’s estimated 30,000 power plants, at least 5,000 of them do not have listings with accurate enough information in global database listings, and this lack of information poses a big challenge when doing climate and carbon modeling. The new game, dubbed Ventus, allows users to enter basic information about power plants, including accurate location data, power generation, fuel type and CO2 emissions, adding to the stock of knowledge that researchers can draw from.

“Ventus uses a Google Earth map which allows someone playing the game to drop pins on the power plants. Our logic is that for every power plant in the world, there are probably at least a dozen people who live near it, work at it, or know someone who works at it. With the proliferation of phones and GPS, it makes it pretty easy to locate things.” – Darragh O’Keefe, ASU research scientist who built the Ventus website

Players can access all the data added to the site, enabling them to edit or adjust that information to more accurately reflect the known information, and will receive points for each piece of data added, competing with other users for a trophy, a co-authorship on the paper, and the much-coveted title of enviro-nerd:

“You will be famous among our very elite, newly formed global group of citizen scientist enviro-nerds.”

The team aims to translate the site into other languages for wider adoption around the world, and hopes that the data gathered with Ventus will help to develop better carbon emissions models and thereby enable more informed decisions about climate change and power production methods.

Compete for enviro-nerd status at Ventus.

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