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 countries in the European Union have been caught significantly under reporting their emission. The People’s Republic of China’s is notorious for submitting fairy-tale types of emission data.
The curtain will soon be pulled back on major polluters around the world. On July 15, 2020, Climate Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions (TRACE) announced it will use artificial intelligence (AI), satellite images processing, and remote sensing technologies to track global greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate TRACE is a coalition of environmental organizations around the world including Carbon Plan, Carbon Tracker, Earthrise Alliance, Hypervine, Hudson Carbon, OceanMind, Rocky Mountain Institute and WattTime. Google LLC has agreed to provide US $1.7 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 does not 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. The significance of the Paris Agreement dramatically increase when satellite imagery can accurately and precisely measure greenhouse gas emissions.
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