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Public sector receives support in climate fight from Private satellites.


The European Space Agency’s Sentinel-6 satellite, which tracks methane emissions around the world.

From satellites that can pinpoint sources of industrial pollution, to others that track hurricanes’ hourly movements, space has emerged as a major front in the fight against climate change.

New launches—literally and figuratively—are skyrocketing, and are driving increased collaboration between space agencies and private companies.

Among the most fruitful areas of collaboration: tracking greenhouse gas emissions.

The powerful planet-warming gas methane is regularly measured in the atmosphere by one of the satellites of the Copernicus mission of the European Union’s space programme.

The spacecraft scans the entire globe, but its resolution is on the order of several kilometres, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact source.

This is where private companies can step in.

One of them, Canada’s GHGSat, currently has nine small satellites in orbit, each about the size of a microwave. Their mission: to fly over oil and gas sites, searching for methane gas leaks. By circling at low altitude, they can take a detailed look at each site.

“Think of it like a wide-angle camera versus a telephoto camera,” company founder Stefan German told AFP. The Copernicus team is in constant contact with GHGSat, telling them where to point their cameras.

Canada's GHGSat uses an array of small satellites to monitor methane emissions

Canada’s GHGSat uses an array of small satellites to monitor methane emissions.

GHGSat then sells its information to oil companies, such as Total, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell.

“More and more companies are interested in this because they realize they have to better understand their carbon footprints,” German said, especially as their clients insist on better accounting of emissions life cycles.

A common source of methane emissions are unlit flares, which are intended to burn off the gas.

GHGSat estimates that it has prevented the equivalent of 10 megatons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, the equivalent of 1.3 million homes’ energy use for a year.

Other companies are planning to enter the sector, including France’s Absolut Sensing. Another company, Kayrros, does not have its own satellites but analyzes Copernicus data to track down the largest leaks.

Technological developments

“The big picture shows you that there is a problem. The small one focuses more precisely and sells the information to someone. So this works very well,” ESA director Josef Achbacher of such public-private partnerships told AFP. .

NASA recently launched the SWOT mission to survey Earth's surface waters in unprecedented detail

NASA recently launched the SWOT mission to survey Earth’s surface waters in unprecedented detail.

But the government agency’s constellations—mostly made up of very large and expensive satellites—remain the backbone of Earth’s observing system.

Copernicus will soon enter a new era, with new missions like CO2M to specifically measure the carbon dioxide released by human activities. NASA has about thirty Earth observation missions.

In the past six months alone, the US space agency has launched a SWOT mission to survey Earth’s surface waters in unprecedented detail, TEMPO to measure pollutants in the troposphere over North America, and TROPICS, to track tropical weather systems, including hurricanes, and watch. per hour.

Advances in technology today make it possible to measure what was thought impossible just five or 10 years ago, said Achbacher.

better outlook

In addition to these science missions, weather satellites, such as those operated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), play a vital role.

Their data, collected over decades, revealed stark shifts in global climate systems: from rising sea and land temperatures to retreating Antarctic ice sheets, helping to fuel the models on which climate science today relies.

Hurricane Ian approaches Florida, as seen by NOAA satellite

Hurricane Ian approaches Florida, as seen by NOAA satellite.

But increasingly, they can also help play a major role in adapting to the heating world. “You have to provide better forecasts,” NOAA chief scientist Mitch Goldberg told AFP.

The agency is working to increase its partnerships with the private sector. For example, I teamed up with GeoOptics to collect information on atmospheric humidity or temperature.

According to a report by Inmarsat and Globant, if existing satellite technologies are adopted globally, they can reduce carbon emissions by 5.5 gigatonnes — four times the current 1.5 gigatonne reductions made possible by the sector.

These savings can be achieved, for example, by helping the aviation and marine sectors decarbonise through flight optimization, weather guidance and air traffic control management.

© 2023 AFP

the quote: Private Satellites Give Public Sector Boost in Climate Fight (2023, May 18) Retrieved May 18, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-private-satellites-boost-sector-climate.html

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