Saskatoon hopes new Google tool will help the city battle the effects of climate change

City of Saskatoon officials hope Environmental Insights Explorer, a new tool designed by Google, will provide more information in the city's battle against climate change.

Software uses Google Maps to estimate emissions, solar power potential

Environmental Insights Explorer, a new Google tool, measures how cities are performing when it comes to climate change. (Damian Dovarganes/The Associated Press)

City of Saskatoon officials hope new software designed by Google will provide more information in the city's battle against climate change.

The software tool, Environmental Insights Explorer, combines information from Google Maps with existing information about greenhouse gas emissions to paint a picture of a city's environmental footprint.

"Any time where we can carry out a discussion with the community around climate change and generate discussion, I think it's extremely valuable," said Jeanna South, the city's director of sustainability.

Saskatoon is among a handful of cities across Canada that were a part of the program's launch on Tuesday morning.

According to Google, the emissions coming from Saskatoon's buildings rank high among other cities. Over the past year, Google estimates, the city emits 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

"That has to do with the nature of our grid," South said. "We don't have a renewable power grid unlike, say, a city like Victoria (B.C.) or even most places in Manitoba [with] hydro power."

The city is hoping the tool will be helpful in implementing its Low Emissions Community Plan, a 30-year road map to help the city reduce its greenhouse gases.

The plan includes switching Saskatoon Transit to electric vehicles and retrofitting municipal buildings, while providing incentives for homeowners and businesses to follow suit.

The city is in the middle of community talks about the plan.

"Being able to direct the community to other sources like the Google data will be very valuable when we carry on our discussions," South said.

However, the news isn't all bad. The software suggests Saskatoon has the potential to drop its emissions by 164,000 tons of carbon dioxide via rooftop solar projects.