Climate TRACE, an alliance of climate research groups, is developing a new tracker using artificial intelligence that would allow the public to access international climate data in real time. They hope to have it ready to unveil at the COP26 climate change meetings in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021.
The finished tracker will track all global greenhouse gases in real time. Third parties will verify the data, and the information will be available free to the public.
“Currently, most countries do not know where most of their emissions come from,” Kelly Sims Gallagher, a professor of energy and environmental policy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, told Vox. “Even in advanced economies like the United States, emissions are estimated for many sectors.” Gaining this information, she said, could help countries devise smart and effective policies to mitigate emissions and chart progress on their goals.
The effort began last year, when U.S.-based WattTime, U.K.-based Carbon Tracker and some other nonprofits made a successful grant application to Google.org, which is Google’s philanthropic arm. Google gave them $1.7 million for their mission of using AI and satellite data for real-time tracking of global power plant emissions. Other nonprofits and environmental crusaders, including Al Gore, heard about the effort and became involved.
Now, the Climate TRACE (which stands for Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) Coalition includes a handful of niche organizations with important things to offer. For example, Hypervine employs spectroscopic imagery to chart blasting at quarries, and OceanMind tracks global movements of ships, extrapolating carbon emissions based on engine specs.
For years, the lack of accurate climate data has caused friction between countries, who waste time arguing over monitoring, reporting and verifying data. Sometimes a country later reveals that they reported inaccurate data, such as when China admitted in 2015 to underestimating coal usage by 17%. Such revelations breed suspicion between countries who need to work together to solve our climate crisis.
“It will empower the people who really are interested in reducing their emissions,” Gore said of the new climate tracker. “It is extremely important for this effort to be independent and reliable, and for it to constantly improve.”
Image via William Bossen