Oakland, Calif., USA — 19 November 2020 — Today TIME revealed its annual list of the 100 best inventions that are making the world better, smarter, and even a bit more fun. It recognized Climate TRACE in the ‘experimental’ category, calling it a “first-of-its-kind environmental analytics tool.”
Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions) is an unprecedented collaboration that aims to track human-caused emissions to specific sources in real time — independently and publicly. Nine organizations from around the world and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore publicly launched this cutting-edge initiative in July 2020 that will use artificial intelligence (AI), satellite image processing, machine learning, and other remote sensing technologies to monitor worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The TIME Best Inventions list comes at a moment when the intersection of space-based technologies and climate action are more timely than ever, with the November 2020 SpaceX launch and the upcoming December 2020 anniversary of the international Paris Agreement on climate action.
“Information from satellites has transformed our knowledge of Planet Earth and is more critical now than ever. Advancements in aerospace — such as those demonstrated a few days ago by SpaceX — combined with improvements in computer modeling, AI, and data accessibility, bring new transparency and integrity to inform and inspire innovative climate solutions. Climate TRACE was created to utilize this data to model global GHG emissions to limit damage to the environment and improve life on Earth,” noted Lori Garver, former deputy administrator of NASA and currently CEO of Earthrise, a founding partner of Climate TRACE.
The Climate TRACE coalition comprises organizations from the tech sector that have pioneered some of the most-powerful software-based emissions-monitoring solutions in the world, in part using AI and remote sensing. As the climate crisis deepens — 2020 is on course to be the warmest year on record and earlier this year set a new high for atmospheric carbon concentrations — coalition partners felt the time was ripe to join together and put these resources to work in powerful new ways.
“Tools like Linux, Python, and Git, which are foundational to nearly every transformative technology being used today, were the product of global collaboration in a free and open source fashion. Similarly, as a developer and founder of a tech startup, I see potential for an open and collaborative effort like Climate TRACE to build the data foundation for transforming the way we understand and tackle climate change,” said Kshitij Purwar, founder & CTO of Blue Sky Analytics, another founding partner of Climate TRACE.
Climate TRACE grew out of a collection of smaller global emissions-monitoring projects by individual organizations. In 2019, a group of nonprofits including U.S.-based WattTime and UK-based Carbon Tracker teamed up to apply for Google.org’s AI Impact Challenge with a proposal to monitor all global power plant emissions from space. Google.org selected the project for a $1.7 million grant. The effort quickly attracted global attention to expand the work, which resulted in Climate TRACE’s public unveiling earlier this year.
“TIME appropriately recognized Climate TRACE in the ‘experimental’ category — it’s not built yet! But, I’ve been amazed how fast the coalition has been pushing forward the technology,” said Gavin McCormick, executive director of founding partner WattTime. “2021 is a big year for climate as the world prepares to renegotiate the Paris Agreement on climate change. And we’re excited that this time around AI can put new options on the table to help make cutting our emissions not as hard as it used to be.”
For 2020’s list, TIME solicited nominations both from its editors and correspondents around the world and through an online application process. It then evaluated them on factors including originality, effectiveness, ambition and impact. The result: 100 groundbreaking inventions — including a smarter beehive, a greener tube of toothpaste, and technology that could catalyze a COVID-19 vaccine — that are changing the way we live, work, play, and think about what’s possible.
About Climate TRACE
Climate TRACE is a coalition created to make meaningful climate action faster and easier by mobilizing the global tech community to track greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with unprecedented detail and speed. Founding organizations include nonprofits CarbonPlan, Earthrise Alliance, Energy and Clean Air Analytics, Hudson Carbon, OceanMind, Rocky Mountain Institute, and WattTime; tech companies Blue Sky Analytics and Hypervine; as well as climate leader and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Climate TRACE is working to build a cohesive, technical solution to make humanity’s GHG emissions transparent, accessible, and actionable for all.
Peter Bronski, Inflection Point Agency for Climate TRACE, WattTime
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