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What CO2 levels are power plants releasing worldwide?

Posting in Cities

Have you ever wondered what emissions company plants are producing in your locale, and which countries are making an effort to keep pollution minimal? A new web tool lets you find out.

The Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) tool, produced by the Center for Global Development, tracks the greenhouse gas emitted by over 50000 power plants and 4000 power companies worldwide. The Washington-based firm's online tool tracks not only how much CO2 a plant produces, but users can search by country, state, province, county, metro area, city, power company, power plant, or zip code.

As a default on the tool's website, the highest CO2 emitting power plants are displayed. Unsurprisingly, North America and Europe have red alert clusters -- but India is also host to four plants that produce vast amounts of electricity and CO2.

The Center says it is the first global inventory of a major, emissions-producing sector of the economy. According to the CGD, 40 percent of all CO2 emissions come from the U.S., and about one-quarter of global emissions.

Want to dig deeper? Select a firm, country or power plant, and you can view how much CO2 is being produced, how much energy is being released, and who owns what.

The tool uses data gained from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy by plant operators, officially reported emission, and reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency. When it comes down to plants that aren't releasing any data, CARMA uses estimates based on statistical models and fuel specifications.

But why create such a tool? The Center says:

The objective of CARMA.org is to equip individuals with the information they need to forge a cleaner, low-carbon future. By providing complete information for both clean and dirty power producers, CARMA hopes to influence the opinions and decisions of consumers, investors, shareholders, managers, workers, activists, and policymakers. CARMA builds on experience with public information disclosure techniques that have proven successful in reducing traditional pollutants.

Power plant ownership can be complicated. There may be different layers of investors and multiple ownership -- but CARMA attempts to assign a power plant to the 'ultimate' owner when possible. The Center admits that tracking ownership shares worldwide is difficult, so says that assignments should be considered a reasonable "best guess" rather than an absolute.

"You get the sense that psychologically, and we may just be exquisitely designed not to deal with climate change, everyone is focused on their little piece of the pie." CARMA Project Manager Kevin Ummel told Scientific American. "What we're doing right now is not revolutionary, and frankly, I don't know what’s going to get us out of this equation."

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— By on October 10, 2012, 7:12 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure