In 2007, responding to a call to action by climate scientist James Hansen, an informal group of journalists and environmental advocates began documenting 151 proposed coal plants in the United States. This group would eventually go on to become Global Energy Monitor.
Over the course of the 20th century, the use of fossil fuels for energy proliferated across the globe. By the mid-2000s, nearly 90 percent of all energy consumed worldwide came from nonrenewable sources. With growing awareness of the social and environmental challenges posed by fossil energy came a growing need for reliable information about the scope and nature of these challenges.
Global Energy Monitor was founded on principles of transparency and accountability. We believe that the data we gather should be accessible to everyone, as we believe that everyone is affected by the issues our work addresses. We hold ourselves accountable to rigorous standards of excellence in research and analysis, striving to provide the most accurate picture of the international energy landscape possible.
From an initial emphasis on energy in the US, GEM quickly expanded its focus to a global scale. In 2008, GEM (then known as CoalSwarm) became affiliated with the Earth Island Institute, a group founded by renowned environmentalist David Brower. GEM operated as a project of the Earth Island Institute for ten years before incorporating as an independent nonprofit organization in 2018.
From its earliest days, GEM has used wiki platforms as a means to ensure accessibility and promote collaboration. From 151 coal plants, GEM’s investigative reach has grown exponentially to encompass a significant swath of the global energy system. GEM.wiki is the culmination of more than a decade of international research addressing vital energy topics. The wiki continues to grow daily, thanks to the enduring efforts of a team of volunteer contributors and editors from around the world.
In 2013, GEM began publishing CoalWire, a weekly digest of significant developments in the global coal industry. In 2014, GEM released the Global Coal Plant Tracker, an interactive database cataloguing thousands of coal-fired plants in all stages of development. The Global Coal Plant Tracker was soon followed by the Global Coal Finance Tracker and the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker.
By the end of the 2010s, GEM’s work was being used by academics, activists, businesses, the media, national and international agencies, and fellow research organizations. As climate change became a more pressing concern on the international agenda, the demand for reliable energy data and analysis grew and, in turn, GEM expanded its research operations to keep up with this demand. Today, GEM’s team consists of researchers from around the world whose work enhances public understanding of the global energy system.
Climate change presents an existential threat to humanity, a threat that may only be solved through the careful application of data and information. In a complex, nuanced, and ever-evolving world, GEM’s role is to distill the facts and present them to the public in a way that strengthens the discourse around energy and environmental issues.
GEM continues to expand into new research areas, taking on new projects that promise to extend the breadth and depth of our understanding of the global energy system. Where gaps in this understanding remain, GEM will continue to strive for insight. As our research continues, we remain committed to our founding principles of transparency and accountability.