Former American vice-president Al Gore has set out to track and publish data on all greenhouse gas emissions – including from shipping.
Gore is part of a new alliance of climate research groups called the Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) Coalition, which launched this week.
The alliance is spearheaded by Gore, who wrote and starred in the 2006 environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and Gavin McCormick, founder and executive director of WattTime, a California start-up now owned by Rocky Mountain Institute, which also controls the Carbon War Room. WattTime combines artificial intelligence, satellite data and other data sources to track power plant emissions.
Our work will be extremely granular in focus — down to specific power plants, ships, factories, and more
In addition to Gore and WattTime, the coalition includes another power plant focused entity, Carbon Tracker, environmental data specialist Earthrise Alliance, forest tracker Carbon Plan, agricultural research outlet Hudson Carbon, mining focused start-up Hypervine, fire tracker Blue Sky Analytics and, crucially for shipping, OceanMind, a start-up that initially focused on illegal fishing activities by tracking AISs, but has since developed its system to track all ships and, by identifying their engine specifications, extrapolate every vessel’s carbon emissions.
The new carbon tracing grouping aims to make show off its systems and data for free to the public in time for COP26, the delayed climate meetings in Glasgow, Scotland, rescheduled for November 2021, giving the world potentially unprecedented access into shipping’s carbon footprint.
We can only manage what we can measure
WattTime and UK-based Carbon Tracker applied for and won a $1.7m grant from Google’s philanthropic arm in May last year to track global power plant emissions in real time using satellite data and AI algorithms. The systems created have since been shared with other start-ups to track emissions from other industries with Gore coming onboard to help form the alliance.
“Our work will be extremely granular in focus — down to specific power plants, ships, factories, and more. Our goal is to actively track and verify all significant human-caused GHG emissions worldwide with unprecedented levels of detail and speed,” Gore and Gavin McCormick, founder of WattTime, wrote in a joint article unveiling the new alliance this week.
“Through Climate TRACE, we will equip business leaders and investors, NGOs and climate activists, as well as international, domestic, and local policy leaders with an essential tool to fully realise the economic and societal benefits of a clean energy future, while ensuring that no one — corporation, country, or otherwise — will ever again have the ability to hide or fake their emissions data,” the pair wrote.
Explaining the rationale for the new venture, Gore and McCormick wrote: “To move faster on solutions to the climate crisis, we need a better system to track emissions; we can only manage what we can measure. And unfortunately, the current state of the art is a bottom-up system that relies heavily, no matter how well implemented, on infrequent self-reporting by countries and companies, using a patchwork variety of methods. A lack of dependable, independent, third-party verification can create uncertainty on whether the data are reliable and accurate. And the long time lags in reporting reduces the ability to make that information actionable.”
The rise of WattTime and its likely focus on shipping was first flagged in the May 2019 issue of Splash Extra.
Commenting on WattTime’s planned move to focus on shipping, Di Gilpin, founder of the Smart Green Shipping Alliance, told Splash Extra last year: “Shipowners should brace for an era of unprecedented transparency of their carbon footprint, and being able to measure those emissions, or lack of them, enables technology developers to devise novel financing solutions for those adopting clean power solutions.”
In related news, Marseille-based SeaRoutes has just launched its first CO2 emissions application programming interface (API) to make accurate data available to logistics stakeholders.
SeaRoutes’ new API has been designed to help businesses achieve their CO2 emissions reporting goals. The API claims to make CO2 monitoring simpler, providing the logistics industry with a decision-making tool to tackle sustainability issues.
The solution considers carriers schedules and uses AIS to get the relevant parameters in the calculation of CO2 emissions such as fuel, engine load, real distances and speed. SeaRoutes further enriches this with its own data including weather at sea, currents and waves.