Want to know how you're affecting the environment?
A new iPhone app that helps users visualize their carbon footprint uses data from a study by Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment to run portions of the program.
The United Nations Environment Program, the creators of the application, used average values of the data for coastal ecosystems contained in "State of the Science on Coastal Blue Carbon: A Summary for Policy Makers" to create the UNEP Carbon Calculator.
"The Duke University data was crucial for the development of the app because the Duke University synthesis of the global blue carbon data provided the basis for the calculations made in the app," said Gabriel Grimsditch of UNEP's Freshwater and Marine Ecosystems Branch. "Without this global synthesis of blue carbon data, some of the calculations in the app would not have been possible."
The report from the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions is part of an emerging body of work on the topic of blue carbon -- a concept that aims to protect coastal habitats and reduce climate change by assigning credits to the large amount of carbon stored in their soil.
The free app, which was recently released through iTunes, allows users to input details surrounding air, train or road travel to calculate their carbon footprint and find out how their footprint compares to what can be stored in these different ecosystems.
Grimsditch said the data from the Nicholas Institute report allows app users to actually see their carbon footprint equivalent in coastal ecosystems such as mangrove forests, saltwater marshlands and seagrass meadows.
"We are pleased that UNEP is using the data we compiled for their blue carbon app," said Brian Murray, one of the three authors of the blue carbon study and director for economic analysis at the institute. "This aligns well with the institute's mission to bring forth the best scientific and economic data to help inform decisions on the world's most pressing environmental problems."
Beyond the calculations, the app provides suggestions on how to limit potential impact on these ecosystems. It was designed to draw attention to the critical role these tropical and coastal ecosystems can play in tackling climate change.
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