Oil and gas production worldwide may be responsible for as much as double the climate-warming harm previously assigned to hydrocarbons, new high-tech research claims.
And if they were countries, aviation and shipping together would rank at No 5 among the planet’s heaviest carbon-emitting nations, Climate TRACE a revolutionary new coalition of academics, claims.
Former US vice president Al Gore is among investors in the California-based Climate TRACE analytics programme, launched in spring 2020 with seed funding from Google. It claims the backing of 11 high-tech companies and universities, including John Hopkins in Baltimore.
Using satellite-observable data and leading edge AI-analysis and machine learning, Climate TRACE is tasked to inject “radical transparency” into the data of climate change.
Per its mission statement, it seeks to “identify precisely when and where emissions are produced, enabling leaders to pinpoint and prioritize where to focus decarbonisation efforts for maximum impact”.
The Climate TRACE inventory spans the five years to 2020, and analyses emissions trends across 10 sectors and 38 subsectors of the planet’s economy. Key findings include:
- In oil and gas production and refining,among the world’s top countries that submit regular inventories, emissions from oil and gas may collectively be around double ( – or 1 billion US tons higher than – ) recent reports to the UN Framework on Climate Change. The UNFCC is convenes UN climate conferences, include
- Missed entirely out of conventional accounting of hydrocarbons’ emissions, it is likely, in the report’s words, “that over 1 billion additional tons of CO2e per year — more than the annual emissions of the 100 lowest-ranking emitting countries combined — have gone uncounted by countries that are not required to report their oil and gas emissions regularly”.
- Shipping and aviation together emitted nearly 11 billion tons of CO2e over the five years, totals that would make these two sectors combined the 5th largest emitter in the world, if they were a country. Shipping emissions increased about 10% per year from 2018–2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, considerably faster than expected. Yet emissions from both sectors are exempted from countries’ mitigation commitments under the Paris Agreement.
- Steel making emitted 13.1 billion tons of CO2e globally over the five years, equal to Japan and the UK’s total emissions combined. In 2020, steel emissions fell in nearly every country except for China. In 2021 year China’s steel industry is on track for an estimated emissions increase of 158 Mt CO2e, roughly equal to Singapore’s entire output.
- Emissionsfrom forest fires have more than doubled in Russia and the United States since 2015.
Crunching 59 terabytes of data gathered by more than 300 satellites carrying over 11,000 sensors, the project’s first database inventory drew on additional sources of emissions information.
“For far too long, climate action has been hindered by a lack of independent, verifiable data on emissions. Climate TRACE is built on the notion that we can only manage what we can measure,” explained former vice president Gore.
In the words of Climate TRACE’s backers: “The inventory is particularly relevant to the more than 100 countries that lack access to comprehensive emissions data from the past five years. In practice, this means that heading into climate negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow, world leaders in every country can inform their decisions with data that reflects current emissions trends, rather than trends prior to the creation of the Paris Agreement.
More on Climate TRACE here.