Exposing The Global Polluters

The Paris Agreement was an environmental accord developed in 2015 to address climate change. The agreement’s goal is to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The Paris Agreement has commitments from industrialized countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement has a series of mandatory measures for the monitoring, verification, and public reporting of progress toward a country’s emissions-reduction targets. Currently 196 countries have adopted the Paris Agreement. The United States, Russia, Turkey and Iran are the only industrialized nations that have not joined the agreement.

Countries that have signed the Paris Agreement are required to report their greenhouse gas inventories and progress relative to their targets. In theory, independent experts are required to validate each country’ results. The reality is very few countries accurately measure their respective greenhouse gas emissions. Several European Union countries have been caught significantly under reporting their emission. The People’s Republic of China’s has the dubious reputation of submitting fairy-tale type emission data.

The curtain may soon be pulled back on global polluters around the world. WattTime, the Carbon-Tracker Initiative and the World Resources Institute have announced they will be using artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite imagery to quantify the emissions from every large power plant in the world. Google has agreed to provide US $2.15 million in funding for the project.

The project will leverage the global satellite network to observe power plants from space. AI technology will use the latest image processing algorithms to detect signs of emissions from power plants. AI algorithms will evaluate a wide range of indicators of power plant emissions, from thermal infrared images, which indicate heat near smokestacks and cooling water intake, to visual spectrum recognition.

The Paris Agreement doesn’t have any financial penalties for countries that fail to meet their commitments. The greenhouse gas emission commitments are aimed at creating global peer pressure to keep countries “in line.” The reality is without accurate emission data, the Paris Agreement is well intentioned, but meaningless. In my opinion, the Paris Agreement will become significant, if satellite imagery can accurately and precisely measure greenhouse gas emissions.

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