How big data can help us tackle climate change? Not only through the analysis of consumer behaviour thanks  to a range of statistical and econometric techniques, such as the ones implemented in COBHAM, but also through a myriad of other big-data initiatives, that model novel and “exotic” data sources.

Take for instance the huge work currently underway to monitor emissions and deforestation thanks to remote sensing and satellite imaging data. In fact, California is developing and eventually launching a satellite capable of detecting the “point source” of climate pollutants, monitoring leaks and other anomalies at specific locations. The satellite, an initiative of the California Air Resources Board, will complement project partner Environmental Defense Fund’s MethaneSAT, scheduled for launch in 2021.

But this is only one side of the deforestation story. One example of how big data can again come to our rescue in understanding and tackling the phenomenon is the Trase platform, which connects independent data sources to show trade flows for the main commodities responsible for the tropical deforestation. By 2021, Trase aims to map the trade network of over 70% of commodities that pose a major risk to forests.

Using existing data such as customs records and trade contracts, tax registration data, production data and shipping data, Trase pieces together a bigger picture of how exports are linked to agricultural conditions (including specific environmental and social risks) in the places where they are produced. This enables companies, governments and others to better understand the risks and identify opportunities for more sustainable production.

Weforum: How big data can help us fight climate change faster