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New tech aims to track carbon in every tree

5 December 2022
Climate scientists and data engineers have developed a new digital platform billed as the first-ever global tool for accurately calculating the carbon stored in every tree on the planet.

• Founded on two decades of research and development, the new platform from nonprofit CTrees leverages artificial intelligence-enabled satellite datasets to give users a near-real-time picture of forest carbon storage and emissions around the world.

• With forest protection and restoration at the center of international climate mitigation efforts, CTrees is set to officially launch at COP27 in November, with the overall aim of bringing an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability to climate policy initiatives that rely on forests to offset carbon emissions.

Users of a new digital platform from nonprofit CTrees will be able to track in near-real-time the carbon stored and emitted in the world’s forests. The platform is borne out of two decades of research and development by a team of the world’s leading climate scientists and data engineers. It’s being touted as the first-ever global system for calculating the amount of carbon in every tree on the planet.

“Forests are extremely important to mitigate climate change because they absorb a major part of the carbon in the atmosphere annually,” Sassan Saatchi, a senior scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who collaborated with colleagues in the U.S., Brazil, Denmark and France to develop the platform, told Mongabay.

However, because trees are so efficient at stashing away carbon dioxide, they release vast quantities of carbon back into the atmosphere when forests are degraded, felled or burned. Recent studies have shown that many forests are nearing a tipping point that compromises their ability to store carbon, with parts of Southeast Asia and the Amazon already net carbon emitters due to multiple human-induced stressors.

Due to this weighty influence on atmospheric carbon, forest conservation and restoration have become major components of climate change mitigation efforts through climate policy initiatives that rely on forests to offset carbon emissions. But up until now, the world has lacked a globally consistent and transparent means of quantifying and tracking forest carbon.

The new CTrees platform now fills this gap, said Saatchi. It’s a “game changer,” he said, for the world’s governments, investors and organizations to make better science-based decisions. “The transition to carbon neutrality requires accurate accounting,” he said. “To truly evaluate the benefits of carbon reduction efforts, market and policy actors need a global state-of-the-art system for measuring and monitoring. Until now, this technology hasn’t been available to carbon markets, and only on a limited basis to climate policymakers.”

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Source: Mongabay.com

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