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A giant AI network will soon track global emissions in real time

Despite the monumental consequences they hold for the future of our planet, greenhouse gas emissions are still not well tracked in most countries. In a bid to monitor and curb emissions, a new alliance of climate research groups called the Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) Coalition has taken on the ambitious plan of using AI to collect data on real-time emissions across the globe. 

The idea was presented as a far-fetched goal of the future at the Paris Climate Accord in 2015, but rapid advancements in tech and determination from individual organizations mean the product could be a reality by COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. 

Tracking is a critical first step to reducing emissions and capturing the whole picture of our changing climate. For example, China revealed in 2016 that it had underestimated the amount of coal it burned by 17 percent. Identifying where exactly we are seeing the most problematic emissions means we can implement targeted solutions in those sectors. 

Multiple companies and leaders have collaborated to create the database including Al Gore and OceanMind, which uses a global network of onboard transponders to detect illegal fishing. It is now using its network of ship data to estimate total carbon emissions based on ship size. Other contributors include US-based WattTime and UK-based Carbon Tracker which won a $1.7 million grant from Google.org to track power plant emissions specifically. 

The coalition currently contains eight organizations that each contribute specific data regarding emissions from different sectors. And the coalition is growing! They will also take information from power grid data, fuel sales, sensor networks, and drones. The result of this collaborative effort will be comprehensive, reliable, publicly-accessible global emissions data, accompanied by periodic reports from independent contributors around the world.

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