A new global tracker created by the non-profit organization Climate Trace will help make it clear exactly where the big greenhouse gas emissions are coming from.
According to NPR, the interactive map "uses a combination of satellites, sensors and machine learning to measure the world's top polluting hotspots."
It looks at how much greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – are emitted at specific locations, such as power plants and oil refineries.
Former Vice President Al Gore, who is a founding member of the initiative, said it is intended to serve as a more reliable and accurate alternative to companies reporting their own emissions estimates. "Cheating is going to be impossible with this AI method, because so many data sets would have to be falsified somehow," he told NPR's Michel Martin on All Things Considered.
The emissions tracking tool uses more than 300 satellites, sensors on land, planes and ships, as well as artificial intelligence to model emissions estimates. It currently monitors about 72.000 of the highest emitting greenhouse gas sources. That includes every power plant, every big ship and every big plane in the entire world, Gore said.
According to him, this is just the beginning. By next year, it hopes to monitor millions of major polluting sites. "We will have practically everything".
Gore said 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from countries committed to being carbon neutral by 2050. “Now that they know exactly where they're coming from, they have the tools to allow them to reduce their emissions.” .
He even added that the database, which is free and accessible online, can help inform countries about how much pollution is being emitted by companies they work with or are considering doing business with.
It is not enough for companies to report themselves. For example, Climate Trace found the oil and gas industry to be low emitters. That doesn't mean the companies are deceiving the public on purpose, Gore added. But he said insufficient reporting was preventing companies from staying on track for the zero emissions they promised. Six regional governments in Mexico, Europe and Africa have already signed agreements to use the tool.