We’ll soon know the exact air pollution from every power plant in the world

  A nonprofit artificial intelligence firm called WattTime is going to use satellite imagery to precisely track the air pollution (including carbon emissions) coming out of every single power plant in the world, in real time. And it’s going to make the data public.

This is a very big deal. Poor monitoring and gaming of emissions data have made it difficult to enforce pollution restrictions on power plants. This system promises to effectively eliminate these problems.

And it won’t just be regulators and politicians who see this data; it will be the public too. When it comes to environmental enforcement, the public can be more terrifying and punitive than any regulator. If any citizen group in the world can go online and pull up a list of the dirtiest power plants in their area, it eliminates one of the great informational barriers to citizen action.

Every pollution law or international agreement relies on monitoring and verification. Many countries, or areas within countries, are suspected of underreporting emissions. It creates a background level of mutual mistrust. Now there will be a trusted, third-party source of verified information on every power plant; no more gaming the system by fiddling with local monitoring equipment or misreporting emissions. Transparent third-party verification will raise everyone’s confidence in the ability of regulators and negotiators to produce results.

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