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December 4, 2022

Satellites suggest oil and gas industries only revealing one third of their total carbon emissions

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Global greenhouse gas emissions, according to Climate TRACE: the satellite data and other sensors combines to estimate emissions from 79,815 different sources. Credit: The Climate TRACE Coalition

Brought to you by Cosmos Magazine and The Echo

A new map details a different set of numbers for carbon emissions.

Satellite monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions revealed at COP27 calls into question data from the Global Carbon Project, providing a very different set of numbers for global carbon emissions.

According to the dataset, several industries are under-reporting emissions: particularly the global oil and gas industry, which may have emissions three times higher than official estimates.

Satellites are becoming an increasingly useful source for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions.

They can provide an independent estimate of how much any given source is emitting, rather than relying on self-reporting.

This is the logic behind nonprofit organisation Climate TRACE, which has just launched a global map of greenhouse gas emissions estimates from satellite data.

Former US vice president Al Gore, a founding member of the organisation, has unveiled the most recent dataset at COP27 in Egypt.

The organisation uses a network of 300 satellites, in combination with other remote sensing data and AI, to track emissions at nearly 80,000 sources.

In 2021, according to Climate TRACE’s estimate, the world emitted 56.33 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent.

“It blows away all the data being presented in the Global Carbon Project, which is based on self-reporting by nations,” says Peter Newman, a Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University who is currently attending COP27 and watched Gore’s launch.

The Global Carbon Project’s estimates for 2021 were 40.2 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent.

“Climate TRACE shows that oil and gas are the big error as they only report around half of their actual emissions generated in production of their fuels,” says Newman.

“Actual emissions, that include methane leaks, shows oil and gas are perhaps only reporting one third of their real emissions.

“Other major errors are made by power plants. The top 500 sources of emissions globally emit more than all of the US’ emissions, with 51% coming from power plants,” says Newman.

According to Climate TRACE’s data, Australia emits 0.65 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent, making it responsible for 1.10% of global carbon emissions and the 15th-largest emitter in the world.

But the Global Carbon Budget estimates Australia’s emissions as only 0.39 gigatonnes per year. This is also 1.1% of the Budget’s emissions.

According to Climate TRACE, seven of the top 10 emitters in Australia were power plants, with the remaining three being Melbourne’s roads, and two oil and gas fields (Ichthys and Wheatstone).

The biggest emitter in Australia is the Eraring power station in NSW, slated to close in 2025. It was responsible for 14.29 megatonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2021 (or 0.014 gigatonnes).

Chevron’s Gorgon gas mine, once the self-styled “world’s largest carbon capture and storage project” was listed as the 14th largest emitter in Australia.

The mine was approved on the basis that it would capture and store 80% of the CO2 it emitted over a five-year rolling average.

Last year, after repeatedly failing to meet its targets from 2016-2021, Chevron negotiated to buy 5.23 megatonnes of carbon offsets to account for its five-year shortfall.

According to Climate TRACE’s data, the field emitted 5.615 megatonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2021 alone.

“Now we have to get on top of these recalcitrant oil and gas producers who are out of control,” says Newman.


This article was originally published on Cosmos Magazine and was written by Ellen Phiddian. Ellen Phiddian is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a BSc (Honours) in chemistry and science communication, and an MSc in science communication, both from the Australian National University.

Published by The Echo in conjunction with Cosmos Magazine.


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11 COMMENTS

  1. CCS, another con by the FF Industry to keep on digging,scraping and drilling.

    The Chevron Gorgon CCSFail is a scandal of the highest order and its enabler the WA Government, is a party to it all.
    In its 6 years of operation only 30% of the Gorgon projects emissions have been sequestered, the rest belched into the sky above
    Chevron failed to meet its condition of approval but did the WA Government shut down this polluting nightmare? No, so why not?
    When the CCSFail hit the headlines a few years ago, the WA Government threatened a fine at the time, $’s100millions, that didn’t happen either.
    How fortunate for untouchable-Chevron that no sanctions were put on them. Instead this ‘carbon offsets’ game is being played.
    You can’t offset the damage done, the damage that wasn’t to happen in the first instance.
    But do please continue drilling and polluting away.

    You welcome.

  2. carbon offsets are rubbish. Pay some money, carry on polluting and pay no tax. What a joke.
    Unfortunately the joke is on us and the planet, not them

  3. How ironic whilst those hypocrites at COP27
    Are trying to justify why western countries
    Should pay for loss & damage to emerging
    Nations like China 🤣🤣due to Climate change/ sea level
    Rises been proven that 43% of pacific islands
    Are growing % 45 % are stable even the
    Far Left ABC reluctantly admitted to this last
    Year ..also a study done in NZ confirms this as well
    “Dont let the truth get in the way of a good story
    Though ” incidentally 1.8 meters of Snow in NY
    21.11.22 this snow event is a record for this time of the year .. how the F is this the case when the world
    Has seen such Global warming ! Need not worry
    Captain planet Joachim will debunk our resident
    Scientist ..can anyone please explain as to the
    Reason why the Greens in the Forbes shire
    Shut down the need for more Dams to mitigate
    The Droughts ..oh the findings it’s not going to rain again so why bother ..record flooding ..uh how good are the Greens in the lands of Droughts &
    Flooding Rains ..how are those Desalination plants going in Sydney Joachim ? Billions its costing
    Taxpayer’s.. who was at the Helm of the Climate
    Council when that decision was made ?

    • Barrow, shock horror, you do know of COP. Congratulations, the UN is on your radar.
      Now we just need you to do some UN /IPCC reading to bone up on affairs.

      Wonderful to read your note about the rare great health our Pacific Island neighbors are reveling in, yeah.
      All that “are growing”, fantastic stuff. Just wondering why Tuvalu and Fiji for example are having to relocate coastal communities that are now unviable for habitation due to..what for it Barrow….inundation from the sea, due to….what for it Barrow…sea level rise.
      They must be making it all up, eh Barrow.

      Barrow old son, we all know that reading isn’t your strong suit but some more suggested reading for you, the just released BoM and CSIRO State of the Climate Report 2022, it is a worse reading report than their Climate Report of 2020, I’m guessing you gave that a reading miss.
      And whilst you got your reading spectacles on, try a read of the recently released World Meteorological Organisation provisional State of the Global Climate Report 2021.
      Its all there, the Science dear Barrow, the Science.

  4. Barrow, do you ever doubt your strident views about these things? I certainly do but I tend to discount a consensus of climate scientists a little less cavalierly. When I do harbour doubts it’s with the fervent wish that – for the sake of the youth of our planet – they are wrong, rather than thinking I know enough about it to dogmatically hold forth.

    Tell me as well how many times you will need to hear the word “unprecedented” about floods, droughts, fires and temperatures (maxima and minima) – from around the globe – before you might just consider that something might be going on?

    Do you think it’s at all plausible that deposits of coal, oil and gas, that have been formed by processes over millennia, might have significant impact on our ecosystem when dug up and burned in huge quantities – largely in less than the blink of less than 150 years. Do you ever think of the teeming masses of us – most of us driving cars, warming and air conditioning our homes and demanding an endless supply of obsolescent goods produced by energy guzzling manufacture – and think that we won’t have any impact at all on a natural world that we know depends on fine balance?

    Now I know that you will tell us that unless we live in the cold and dark in a cave, we don’t have any right to comment. However we know we all have a footprint, just most of us these days are prepared to admit to the reality of it and look to the development of less impactful energy sources and international cooperation (the only vague hope the planet now has)

    Do you ever feel lonely that you are left in an ever diminishing group of ostriches? Or by railing at our “hypocrisy” are you attempting to assuage your own niggling unease?

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