One of the great challenges in tackling the climate crisis is our lack of reliable real-time data on global carbon emissions. The vast majority of GHG data around the world are estimates, which are prone to wishful thinking and difficult to verify.
Because of this, the world’s biggest carbon emitters — from cities to nations to major corporations – spend a lot of time squabbling about monitoring and the need for more reliable data. Without reliable data, they have room to argue that their emissions are less damaging than others estimate or that their solutions are more effective than they truly are. Without reliable data, we end up talking about the need for better data, rather than truly taking action.
A new alliance of climate research groups called Climate TRACE (short for “Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions”) is aiming to change all that – and soon. It plans to launch a global system for tracking GHG emissions around the world in real-time by COP 26 November 2011. The new system will compile all the world’s best climate data and then use artificial intelligence to analyze and synthesize it and create ever-improving prediction models.
Ultimately, this means much more reliable data on who is emitting and how much, what solutions are proving most effective, and where we need to prioritize further action.
The effort will be made even more powerful by allowing all data to be verified by third parties, helping to ensure greater accuracy and accountability. Further, all data will be made available to the global public for free.
It’s not uncommon for people to question the impact artificial intelligence will have on human life. Many of us fear it will corrupt and tarnish human experience irrevocably. They are right to have fear about this: there are certainly practical, ethical, and existential questions to consider about artificial intelligence.
But some of us perhaps also spend less time thinking through what incredible benefits artificial intelligence can offer us than we could or should. The Climate TRACE program is one sterling example. If successful, it has the potential to completely revolutionize, strengthen, and accelerate climate action across the globe.
Only a few short years ago, such a system would have been deemed utterly preposterous and inconceivable. Now, as soon as next year, it could be a reality.
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