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Oakland Getting First Urban Network of CO2 Sensors

Oakland's extensive network of CO2 detectors should help us figure out whether California's new cap-and-trade system is working.

Many ideas have been suggested for cutting down on our carbon dioxide emissions, but ultimately, it’s very difficult to determine when CO2-reducing strategies are actually working. With that in mind, scientists at UC Berkeley have started installing the world’s first urban CO2 sensor network in Oakland, California, possibly giving us the most accurate carbon dioxide monitoring system yet.
The BEACON network will measure carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone levels, reporting all of its data on its website. Meanwhile, California has a cap-and-trade law that goes into effect Jan. 1, and the new sensors might be the best way to figure out whether or not it’s actually effective. Scientists are spreading 40 of them across a 27 square-mild grid in Oakland, creating a much better measurement framework than the dozen or so sensors that currently exist. The sensors are small, relatively inexpensive to operate, and what’s more, scientists are putting most of them on the roofs of local schools, in an effort to get students thinking about CO2 and its effects on the climate. There are already efforts underway to incorporate the sensor data into schools’ climate science curricula.
And really, you could make the case that student involvement will end up being the most important result of the new sensor system. Knowing the impact of California’s cap-and-trade law should be helpful, but exposing a new generation of middle school and high school students to the science of climate change? That could be invaluable.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons\n

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