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Soon it will be possible to precisely track carbon emissions anywhere on the planet by satellite. Carbon Mapper, a new nonprofit, plans to launch its first two satellites in 2023, which they hope will be joined by a “constellation” of other satellites two years later. The project brings together the state of California, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, academic institutions, and satellite maker Planet. It’s a continuation of NASA’s climate and carbon dioxide monitoring work, which recently found that as population density increases, per person carbon emissions decline. That study was done at the city level, but the new Carbon Mapper tool will detect emissions down to the facility level.
Why This Matters: These satellites will detect methane and carbon emissions, giving people a potent tool to hold emitters accountable — just like pollution monitors on the ground might. This tool can keep all the Paris Accord signatories honest by making it possible for the world to know “in near real-time, how well a company, state or nation is living up to its climate commitments,” Axios writes. And the same goes for governments and citizens holding companies accountable for meeting national regulatory standards. Most importantly, the data from these satellites will be free and publicly available, so anyone can access it.
Carbon Mapper’s goal is to quickly and accurately measure emissions, especially when those emissions are intense and intermittent. It has been flying aircraft equipped with prototype versions of the satellite tools for the past five years, tracking methane emissions across the country. Want to take a look at their prototype data portal? You can see methane data for California here.
This data set already has some key takeaways, including that “a relatively small number of high emitting point sources (about 700 pieces of infrastructure) are responsible for at least a third of total methane emissions in California; this could translate to significant ‘low hanging fruit’ for mitigation,” according to NASA.
“This decade represents an all-hands-on-deck moment for humanity to make critical progress in addressing climate change,” said Riley Duren, Carbon Mapper CEO and research scientist at the University of Arizona, in a statement. “Our mission is to help fill gaps in the emerging global ecosystem of methane and CO2 monitoring systems by delivering data that’s timely, actionable and accessible for science-based decision making.”
Carbon Mapper isn’t the only one looking to satellites to track methane: the Environmental Defense Fund has its own tool, MethaneSAT, which is working in partnership with SpaceX to provide similarly precise data about the damaging greenhouse gas.
Jeff Bezos’ commercial space venture, Blue Origin, plans to launch its first crewed ship to space on July 20, aboard its suborbital space tourism rocket, New Shepard. The company announced on Wednesday that one seat aboard that flight will be auctioned off to support its Club for the Future Foundation.
Why this Matters: After much anticipation, space tourism is finally happening. Really.
Last week was so busy with what was happening on Earth, there was hardly time to talk about what happened in space. To start the week, NASA launched a helicopter (named Ingenuity) on Mars — it did not just roll like the Perserverence rover — it flew and that was an amazing first that would […]
Don’t underestimate the power of the moon. Super full moons like the one last night happen when the moon is closest to Earth, and they bring higher tides. For coastal cities like Miami or Boston or Norfolk, high tides also mean an increased risk of flooding.
Why This Matters: “In short, the moon has very strong control over how we experience sea level. It doesn’t affect sea-level rise, but it can hide or exaggerate it,” writes Brian McNoldy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
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