A complete inventory of the most significant greenhouse gas emission sites in 241 countries has been unveiled at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

It has the potential to be a climate action game-changer.

For the first time ever, it allows people to identify and target the biggest polluters, the most inefficient production facilities and sites everywhere, so they can be pressurised to clean up their act, modernise their practices, or be closed down altogether.

This new inventory also identifies greenhouse gas cheats, big business and national interests who lie about their climate credentials. This includes particularly (but not only) oil and gas producers which, it appears, have been collectively lying through their teeth about greenhouse gas emissions for decades.

This amazing new climate tool is called the Climate Trace Inventory. It is now freely available on the climatetrace.org website, and it is a work of genius.

Read: Dublin Airport largest Irish polluter last year - COP27 data

It was developed by a non-profit coalition of artificial intelligence specialists, data scientists, researchers and non-government organisations. Former US Vice President Al Gore is also closely associated with the project, and it was he who launched the database at COP27 on Wednesday.

There are about 300 American, Chinese and European-owned satellites circling the world every day collecting detailed measurements of chemicals, pollution, heat, and other scientific indicators.

The Climate Trace experts tap into all that information, combine it with data from more than 11,000 land, air, and sea-based sensors located around the world.

They then use the superpower of artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring it all together, before they zone in on 72,612 individual emission sites around the globe.

The power sector, oil and gas production and refining, shipping, aviation, mining, waste, agriculture, road transportation, the production of steel, cement, and aluminium are all traced.

The damage they are doing to the climate is laid bare and the dataset assembled stretches back for the past six years.

It shows:

  1. The number one greenhouse gas emitter on Planet Earth is Permian Basin, a Texas-based oil and gas facility in the United States.
  2. The top 14 individual sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the world are all oil and gas fields.
  3. 26 of the 50 largest sources of emissions worldwide are oil and gas production sites and associated facilities.
  4. Emissions from oil and gas production were double what was officially reported to the United Nations last year.
  5. When new data about the impact of practices like flaring and methane leakage in places like Russia, Turkmenistan, the United States and the Middle East are included, to more accurately account for pollution, emissions from oil and gas production shockingly turn out to be three times higher than official reports to the United Nations suggest.
  6. Electricity generation accounts for more than 60% of the 500 largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world. This is followed by oil and gas producers, then steel production, and then road transport.
  7. The top 500 greenhouse gas polluters account for 14% of global emissions, more than the entire annual emissions of the United States.
Dublin Airport was the largest Irish polluter last year, according to the data

The Climate Trace database enables some very useful and damning comparisons to be made.

For instance, it enables one to identify and locate which steel manufacturing facilities in the world are the cleanest per tonne of steel produced. On this issue, in fact, it actually shows that the worst steel producers emit ten times more greenhouse gas per tonne of steel produced than the most efficient steel producers.

This suggests the world could produce substantially more steel with far less damage to the climate if production could simply be concentrated in the (now easily identified) most efficient steel plants or if the worst facilities were significantly modernised.

In another example, emissions per megawatt of electricity produced at the Novo-Angren power station in Uzbekistan is more than twice the amount produced per megawatt of electricity at the Hai Phong power station in Vietnam. Why should the Uzbekistan plant be allowed to operate like that when there are better models?

Or take international shipping - a huge polluter. Climate Trace allows us to know that the "Sydney Express, a very large ship which sails under a Maltese flag, emits 1.22 tonnes of carbon dioxide per nautical mile. But a similarly sized ship APL Dublin, which sales under the Singapore flag, produces just half as much emissions per nautical mile".

Readily available information like this will enable pressure to be applied for the worst polluters in each sector to be shut down or put out of business.

It will also enable investors and others to make very different decisions about where to direct their money or their business. Corporates pursuing a net-zero investment or business strategy will be empowered to take bold new action based on comprehensive granular asset-level emissions data like this.

All of this suggest that Climate Trace has given the world something extremely valuable at COP27 - a potentially very effective and highly sophisticated weapon to be used in the war against climate change.