Satellite image
(Photo credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr)

Almost every country in the world has committed to reducing its carbon pollution. But countries know surprisingly little about precisely where those emissions come from.

“It’s not like nobody has any idea what the emissions are, but the fundamental status quo around the world for most types of emissions is you ask the people doing the polluting, ‘Hey, how much did you pollute?’ And you hope they’re telling the truth, and maybe you can sometimes get an auditor to double-check parts of it,” says Gavin McCormick, co-founder of WattTime.

The nonprofit WattTime is one of the founders of the Climate TRACE coalition, a group that includes high-tech start-ups that are working on an independent way to monitor carbon pollution.

Using satellite images, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, the group aims to track carbon pollution worldwide in real time.

McCormick expects the group’s data will be live and freely available in June, 2021. And it will be able to identify specific sources of pollution.

“There’s just something tremendously clarifying and humanizing about showing someone a picture of pollution,” McCormick says, “and saying, ‘Here it is.'”

So the TRACE Coalition’s effort can help the public and policymakers identify and hold polluters accountable.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...