Find Local Polluters: Climate TRACE Unveils Groundbreaking Tool That Visualizes GHG Sources

Imagining all the sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been challenging for people trying to understand climate change. Climate TRACE has released a highly detailed map of the world’s GHG emissions that anyone can use to explore their local sources of atmosphere-warming pollution.

Announced at the United Nations COP28 climate meeting in Dubai, the comprehensive database pinpoints nearly every major source of GHG emissions. Covering human-induced emissions from over 352 million sources, from power plants and steel mills to ships, oil refineries, and landfills, Climate TRACE also allows users to browse how local activities like fertilizer application, deforestation, and wildfires contribute to global warming. 

This level of detail is crucial for enabling action and accountability on a scale necessary for global progress against climate change.

Mapping Emissions And More

The tool collects and interprets data from satellites, remote sensing, and various public and commercial sources to fill critical gaps in previously available inventories. The easy-to-use map provides an intuitive way to understand what contributes CO2, methane, and other GHGs to a region’s emission, especially considering that many corporate emissions worldwide still need to be included in self-reported ESG databases.

Climate TRACE’s efforts are already seeing practical applications. Companies like Tesla, Polestar, and Boeing are collaborating with the organization to enhance their emissions data, particularly in decarbonizing supply chains and assessing paths to decarbonization in sectors like aviation.

We think the mapping of GHG sources will be an eye-opener. Climate Trace allows users to see emissions data at the global, national, state, and local level, providing information about individual sources of emissions, such as Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, which produces 5.7 million tons of CO2e annually. But even in small towns, the information can be enlightening — we found that the local landfill near Earth911’s emissions account for 11.6 tons of CO2e, an oil refinery produces 265 million tons, and county-level transportation 3.3 million tons.

Additional layer of information include the transportation-related emission for metropolitan areas, and there are categories, such as the GHG impact of buildings, which are not currently populated but that will provide increasingly accurate data about human environmental impacts.

The Climate TRACE tool displays location-specific information, such as the emissions from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Source: Climate Trace

A Tool For Action

This inventory is also a tool for taking action. As former U.S. Vice President and Climate TRACE co-founder Al Gore explained, it eliminates any excuse for inaction by businesses, governments, and other entities in reducing emissions swiftly and significantly.

“Leaders from the public and private sectors can now do what’s never been possible before,” Gore said. “They can look clearly at the causes of the climate crisis all the way down to the individual source. They can pinpoint where to take action almost immediately.”

The inventory’s release coincided with the United Nations’ urgent call to reduce emissions by at least 42% by 2030 to stay on the 1.5°C pathway and avoid the worst impacts of Climate Change. The database sheds light on variations in emissions intensity within industries, influenced by factors like location and local policies. While companies must understand and manage their supply chain emissions better, Climate TRACE is also a tool citizens can use to identify and register their concerns about local polluters.

Climate TRACE’s achievements demonstrate the power of scientific collaboration, AI, and machine learning in addressing climate challenges. The expanded dataset, which grew from 80,000 to 352 million assets in just a year, is a monumental accomplishment, according to Gavin McCormick, executive director of WattTime and co-founding member of Climate TRACE.

Available free to the public, Climate TRACE can help you take action in tackling the most pressing issue of our time, the battle to end atmospheric warming. Take a few minutes to explore your region.

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