Study maps 15 years of carbon dioxide emissions on Earth

September 11, 2014

World leaders face multiple barriers in their efforts to reach agreement on greenhouse gas emission policies. And, according to Arizona State University researchers, without globally consistent, independent emissions assessments, climate agreements will remain burdened by errors, self-reporting and the inability to verify emissions progress.

Now, an international research team led by ASU scientists has developed a new approach to estimate CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels – one that provides crucial information to policymakers. Called the “Fossil Fuel Data Assimilation System,” or FFDAS, this new system was used to quantify 15 years of CO2 emissions, every hour, for the entire planet – down to the city scale. Until now, scientists have estimated greenhouse gas emissions at coarser scales or used less reliable techniques. Global fossil fuel CO2 emissions Download Full Image

Researchers unveiled the new system in an article published Sept. 10 in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The FFDAS uses information from satellite feeds, national fuel accounts and a new global database on power plants to create high-resolution planetary maps. These maps provide a scientific, independent assessment of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions – something policymakers can use and the public can understand.

“With this system, we are taking a big step toward creating a global monitoring system for greenhouse gases, something that is needed as the world considers how best to meet greenhouse gas reductions,” said Kevin Robert Gurney, lead investigator and associate professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences. “Now we can provide all countries with detailed information about their CO2 emissions and show that independent, scientific monitoring of greenhouse gases is possible.”

The research team combined information from space-based “nighttime lights,” a new population database, national statistics on fuel use, and a global database on power plants to create a CO2 emissions map broken down by hour, year and region.

The School of Life Sciences is an academic unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“The accuracy of the FFDAS results is confirmed by independent, ground-based data in the United States,” said Salvi Asefi-Najafabady, lead author of the report and postdoctoral researcher at ASU. “This makes us confident that the system is working well and can provide useable, policy-salient information.”

“This is an incredibly helpful tool for national and international policymakers and the public to get a grasp of whether strategies to reduce greenhouse gases are effective,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the Climate and Energy Program at World Resources Institute. “It serves as a complementary approach to current bottom-up accounting methodologies. No longer will there be a delay in understanding the latest GHG trends.”

The FFDAS showed surprising detail on global emissions before and after the Global Financial Crisis, with portions of the U.S., Europe and India recovering sooner and more dramatically. The multiyear results also showed the dramatic rise of CO2 emissions in China and South Asia. Hence, the sub-national details offer insights into economic activity at scales for which traditional economic data has been limited.

“It used to take years to assemble all the statistics on CO2 emissions,” said Peter Rayner, lead investigator from the University of Melbourne, Australia. “With this system, once the satellite data is flowing, we can update our emissions maps each year. It gives a quick check on efforts to limit climate change.”

The research team includes ASU, University of Melbourne, Australia, NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center, Colorado State University and Purdue University. NASA funded the three-year FFDAS project.

Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations, ASU Knowledge Enterprise


'Shifting Sands' video exhibit explores zones of conflict in Middle East

September 11, 2014

The ASU Art Museum is pleased to present the work of four international artists using film and video in the exhibition “Shifting Sands: Recent Videos from the Middle East,” on view through Nov. 29, in the Turk and Kresge Galleries at the museum’s 10th Street and Mill Avenue location.

“Shifting Sands” features the art of Lida Abdul (Afghanistan), Yael Bartana (Germany/Israel), Emily Jacir (Palestine/Italy) and Isabel Rocamora (Spain/U.K.),* and explores zones of conflict, including the Israel-Palestine border and Afghanistan, with a focus on the shifting personal, political and geographical landscapes of the Middle East. Isabel Rocamora, “Horizon of Exile,” U.K., 2007 (detail of film still) Download Full Image

Organized and first presented in 2012 at the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at The University of Texas at El Paso in conjunction with Desert One, a regional, collaborative project involving a network of institutions initiated by the Desert Initiative at the ASU Art Museum, “Shifting Sands” was co-curated by Kate Bonansinga and Kerry Doyle. The ASU Art Museum presentation of the exhibition is managed by Heather Sealy Lineberry and is supported by the Helme Prinzen Endowment and the ASU Art Museum Creative Impact Board.

“After Desert One, we approached the curators at the Rubin Center about presenting ‘Shifting Sands’ here at the ASU Art Museum, and we are pleased to be the only other venue,” says Lineberry, who serves as the associate director and senior curator at the ASU Art Museum. “We were taken with the exhibition’s focus on desert landscapes in the Middle East and the impressive selection of internationally known and exhibited artists.”

Featuring six video works by four different artists, "'Shifting Sands' not only gives audiences exposure to excellent contemporary art being produced in and about the Middle East, but also serves as a dynamic catalyst for dialogue about culture, politics and current events in the region,” explains Doyle, director of the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts.

“Beginning in the early 1990s, the ASU Art Museum was the first institution in Arizona to exhibit and collect video and new media art,” says Lineberry. “‘Shifting Sands’ continues this emphasis on, arguably, the most influential medium in contemporary art. The artists in the exhibition utilize video for its range of potential, and the exhibition includes works that take the form of complex narratives, dance for the camera, and abstract and poetic vignettes.”

A 27-page, full-color publication, “Shifting Sands: Recent Videos from The Middle East,” accompanies the exhibition. It was published by the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts in 2012 with the support of the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Patricia Hewitt Silence Memorial Fund, and features essays by Kate Bonansinga, Noah Simblist and Kerry Doyle, as well as an exhibition checklist and artist biographies. Copies will be available for purchase in the ASU Art Museum Store for the duration of the exhibition.

A reception for the exhibition will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Oct. 2 (with a members, alumni and press preview from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.).

Two other events will be held in conjunction with the exhibit:

“Civility in Action, Part I”
6-8 p.m., Sept. 9, ASU Art Museum

A series of Valley-wide citizen dialogues on election issues, “Civility in Action” is designed to foster civility. Hosted by the Institute for Civil Dialogue in association with the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at ASU, it provides a structured format for public dialogue as a tool to build bridges across the chasm of public viewpoints. This conversation in the series will be set against the backdrop of the “Shifting Sands” exhibition and consider political issues and the Middle East.

“Dancing in Jaffa,” film screening and discussion
7 p.m., Oct. 30, ASU Physical Education Building East, room 132

"Dancing in Jaffa" is a compelling new documentary about ballroom dancing as a means of bridging differences between Jewish and Muslim children. This screening, presented in conjunction with “Shifting Sands” at the ASU Art Museum, is co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies, the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Socially Engaged Practice Program.

All ASU Art Museum events are free and open to the public.

The ASU Art Museum is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesdays (during the academic year), and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays. To learn more about the museum, call 480-965-2787, or visit

*To read the artists' full bios, visit

Juno Schaser

Event coordinator, Biodesign Institute