Climate Detectives Soon Will Be Able To Track Individual Carbon Emitters

Scientists are close to monitoring the greenhouse-gas emissions of individual cities, according to the Stanford University professor who chairs the Global Carbon Project, and soon after should be able to trace emissions to individual sources.
"It’s an exciting time because we have pretty good data," said Rob Jackson, a Stanford professor of Earth System Sciences.
"There is a lot more public information on emissions—companies, states, other countries. We are developing new tools for emissions. We’re not there yet but we’re moving pretty quickly towards a world where you might be able to verify emissions at a large city scale."
While that trajectory represents progress in most of the world, it lags China, where the government publishes real-time emissions data on its 40,000 largest polluters, which citizens can monitor on a smart-phone app. Researchers like Jackson rely on towers, aircraft and satellites to monitor pollution levels in large air masses moving across countries, he said in an appearance before the National Press Club—"not perfect information in any sense, but we kind of know when something doesn’t match up at a macro scale."
It's more difficult to monitor methane and nitrous oxide, the more potent but less concentrated gases that emerge from oil fields, pipelines and farms.
"I think maybe the most exciting thing is greater transparency," Jackson said. "I think in the methane space we’re not so many years away, maybe five, where you or I as a citizen might be able to go online and see a large emission source in the United States or in Russia or Nigeria for that matter.
"That kind of information, some of it’s private, but some of it’s public, and I think that kind of information is going to help companies find sources more quickly, make it easier for people to see who’s doing the best job, give companies credit who are cutting emissions, and frankly point out the places and industries and such that aren’t doing as good a job. That kind of transparency in public information is very powerful."
It's been powerful in China, where the Blue Map app is credited with helping bring back blue skies and motivate sluggish officials without additional regulation, simply by marshaling citizen outrage.

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