Tuesday brought a somewhat mind-blowing announcement in the world of power plants and pollution. In a nutshell: A nonprofit artificial intelligence firm called WattTime is going to use satellite imagery to precisely track the air pollution (including carbon emissions) coming out of every single power plant in the world, in real time. And it’s going to make the data public.
This is a very big deal. Poor monitoring and the falsification of emissions data have made it difficult to enforce pollution restrictions on power plants. This system promises to effectively do both of these things. And it won’t just be regulators and politicians who see this data; it will be the public too. When it comes to environmental enforcement, the public can be more terrifying and punitive than any regulator. If any citizen group in the world can go online and pull up a list of the dirtiest power plants in their area, it eliminates one of the great informational barriers to citizen action.
If you’re interested in the complex scientific methods that these satellites will use to track all the power plants in the world, have a look right here.