Artificial Intelligence Is Mapping Air Pollution From Power Plants Everywhere

Power plants beware.

An artificial intelligence firm says it is tracking the air pollution from every power plant across the globe.

WattTime, a nonprofit software company dedicated to reducing emissions, says that it will use satellite imagery to collect data on air pollution. It's going to take that data and turn it over to government agencies and the public to help hold power plants accountable for their emissions goals. 


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The project is backed by Google.org, the philanthropic branch of Google, which donated close to two million dollars. By collecting the data, the firm will pull back the veil on the world's biggest polluters. Right now, most power plants report their own emissions or hide their emissions altogether, which allows them to skirt laws and avoid scrutiny. But WattTime could change that.

"Far too many power companies worldwide currently shroud their pollution in secrecy," Gavin McCormick, the executive director of WattTime, said on the WattTime website. "But through the growing power of artificial intelligence (AI), our little coalition of nonprofits is about to lift that veil all over the world, all at once."

WattTime's satellites will look over the power plants from space and employ AI technology to monitor their emissions, according to Vox. Pinpointing the plants that cause the most pollution or skirt regulations could cause a monumental public outcry or a legislative shift that would curb emissions.

Earlier this year, the State of Global Air report was released. In it, researchers said that air pollution causes 5 million premature deaths and shaves 147 million years off the lives of global citizens. Air pollution is the fifth largest mortality risk across the globe. That makes the work WattTime is doing all the more relevant and important.

"The more transparency we can provide for energy consumers around the world, the more likely we are to solve some of the monumental challenges facing our planet," Johannes Friedrich, a senior associate at World Resources Institute, said. "We believe this project will help bring the world one huge step closer to meeting urgent carbon reduction goals, and we're proud to be a part of it."

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