AI can now track emissions hotspots, including individual factories, mines and even ships

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In science, zoomed-in and zoomed-out viewing angles are essential for gaining accurate understanding and perspective – studying the details of molecular interactions as well as global population dynamics is equally important. The same can be said for climate change. Mapping the territory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the ground and atmospheric level is crucial to calibrating an accurate climate outlook, providing clarity to help make informed decisions, and better define action at the planetary scale.

This is exactly the overall approach adopted by Climate TRACEan international nonprofit backed by former US vice president Al Gore who uses artificial intelligence (AI), satellites and sensors to track man-made GHG emissions from low Earth orbit.

youa fleet of 300 satellites and 11,000 remote sensors track emissions from all major sources on the planet – climatic TRACE is capture a detailed snapshot of global emissions in real time.

TRACE climate technology

The project started in 2020 and, after receiving funding from Google, published in 2021 a first global national and sectoral emissions dataset.

But like many in the tech industry, Climate TRACE is committed to changeso at COP27 this week, Al Gore present the latest developments in the organization’s data, now at the individual level at the facility level and broken down by GHG type.

“Climate TRACE brings increased understanding and precision to emissions monitoring,” explains the NGO. “Our inventory offers the most detailed and comprehensive breakdown by sub-sector available today.”

More 70,000 Pitches – down to the level of individual power plants, oil rigs, coal mines, factories, airports, urban transport and even ships in the ocean – have their surface-level emissions monitored from up, forming an inventory of the top 500 polluters in each sector and sub-sector.

The 60 terabytes of data captured – completed by public and commercial industry datasets – is continuously analyzed by AI systems “trained to spot subtle differences in satellite imagery, data patterns, etc.

Climate TRACE currently provides annual emissions estimates, but as their technology develops, they hope to provide updates to the monthly, weekly and finally daily level.

That’s the beauty of their technology infrastructure: it can are constantly evolving, expanding ground coverage, and steadily increasing the level of detail captured (much like any software patch) in ways that traditional methods would be unable to do.

They hope that the accurate and timely emissions data collected from their independent perspective can help fill the “critical knowledge gaps” in emissions coverage thatthe human eye” and “traditional monitoring methods” may be lacking.

Transparency for decision-makers, accountability for polluters

We know how much CO2 is in the atmosphere, and we know why it’s there, but the problem is that our current method of assessing where it came from is unreliable and not representative of reality.

So far, the world has relied heavily on the UN and its governing bodies to consolidate the reports of public and private organizations disproportionately around the world, many of which are often outdated or contain gaps, errors and same deliberate omissions of broadcasts in some cases.

“Nearly 100 countries do not have access to complete emissions data for the past five years, in part due to the significant challenges and costs associated with collecting accurate and timely information,” says Climate TRACE.


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Climate TRACE’s technology has no less than jet-powered emissions tracking efforts, combining a multitude of different data sources to fill gaps between surface-level emissions and atmospheric accumulation, and build confidence in reporting via open access third-party validation.

Bringing clarity to climate conversationsClimate TRACE emissions data provides transparency to political decision-makers, responsibility towards polluters, and catalysis meaningful climate action.

The universal image that their technology provides allows us to better navigate the global emissions landscape, identify precise pollutant hotspots on which to urgently focus emissions reduction efforts. This degree of coverage allows the international community to develop tailored climate solutions at sector, country and even facility level.

The “big brother” of pollution

From their unbiased and unique perspective, Climate TRACE is able to understand who is causing climate change and where at a higher level of control, identify “anomalies and inconsistencies” in current reports.

“We have uncovered important insights into global emission trends,” says Climate TRACE.

Emissions from oil and gas production and refining can collectively be more than double the reported levels, despite being one of the most reported sectors.

“It is likely that more than a billion additional tonnes of CO2e per year – more than the annual emissions of the 100 lowest emitting countries combined – have gone unaccounted for by countries that are not required to regularly report their emissions. oil and gas,” the nonprofit says.

Until 2020, steel industry emissions were up:

“Global steel production generated 13.1 billion tonnes of CO2e between 2015 and 2020, equivalent to the total emissions of Japan and the UK combined over the same period,” notes Climate TRACE.

Since then, steel emissions have decreased in all countries except Chinawhere the steel industry is “on track for an estimated increase in emissions of 158 Mt of CO2 equivalent, roughly equivalent to all of Colombia’s annual emissions”.

They also found that if the shipping and aviation sectors combined were a country, they would be the 5th largest emitter in the world.

Climate TRACE reveals that “emissions from maritime transport have increased by around 10% per year between 2018 and 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, much faster than expected”.

Additionally, emissions from forest fires, road transport and rice fields are much higher than previously thought.

“As governments set new net zero targets, data from Climate TRACE enables them to shape ambitious policies and track progress in reducing emissions,” the organization says.

But their observations also offer a unique opportunity to “hold governments and the private sector accountable for their emissions reductions”. promises.”

Climate TRACE is watching you.


Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com In the featured photo: Rice paddies in California. Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory

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