There's a new kid on the Google Maps block, and he is here to help us fight climate change. The novel online tool called Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) offers geographical estimations of carbon emissions data and renewable energy potential.
Improved globally-consistent baselines
EIE's purpose is to assist relevant bodies in building better, more well-founded globally-consistent baselines from which policies, solutions, and progress metrics can be sourced. According to Rebecca Moore, Director, Google Earth, Earth Engine & Outreach, the system works by "analyzing Google’s comprehensive global mapping data together with standard greenhouse gas (GHG) emission factors."
The EIE site offers freely available data in four categories: building emissions, transportation emissions, energy offset potential, and 20-year climate projections. Each category further gives visitors the opportunity to explore more specific statistics such as breakdowns of emissions percentages, data accumulation dates, and topic-related links.
"EIE arose from a decade’s worth of climate-related projects at Google," explained Moore. "Collectively these projects in conjunction with other Google data sources like building and transportation data, were pulled together to reveal valuable insights about cities' carbon impact—information that we realized could play a critical role in encouraging action by policymakers, city officials, and others."
Visitor friendly and conducive to action
The next step, however, was to make this information visitor-friendly and conducive to action. This is where a partnership with Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy came in.
The organization, founded by global city networks and supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the European Union, had been collecting the data Google wanted as part of their new tool. Even better, GCoM was intimately acquainted with both environmental policies and the political obstacles that stand in their way.
The collaboration saw the emergence of an efficient and easy-to-use tool that could help direct city-wide emissions policies or even inform individual projects such as eco-friendly transportation initiatives. How? EIE allows researchers to deduce a speculative project's potential city emissions impact in order to determine whether it is worth the investments involved in undertaking it.
EIE also provides estimates of renewables' implementation logistics. "Now we can bring data analytics to conversations about renewable energy and show people that they’re able to generate enough solar power for their entire city," says Brad Petry, Head of Data Analytics, Victorian Centre for Data Insights.
Previously these inventory data sets required onsite work, months to years of research, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. EIE offers a virtual cost-and-time-effective alternative solution which means it can be applied by the cities that need it most.
“The vast majority of cities aren’t in the position to finance a process that will take time and might be cost prohibitive, especially the small to medium cities in developing areas of the world. And that’s where most of the action will take place in relation to the Paris Agreement on climate change,” explains Amanda Eichel, executive director GCoM.
Best of all, the technology behind this development is not limited to the environmental sector and neither are its impacts. "The increasing trend in data consumption and AI insight is moving us towards a future of higher accountability for our actions. Not just with environmental insight like this, but also ethical and security aspects as well," Chief AI Officer of Ziff.AI and AI expert Ben Taylor told IE.