Satellites to Track Greenhouse Gas Emissions in California

Kennedy Herbst
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Soyuz Spaceship
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The government, under Governor Gavin Newsom, announced recently that research organizations including a nonprofit, Carbon Mapper, will launch satellites into space by 2023 to track pollutants in the atmosphere. The experiment will use $100 million in funding from philanthropy groups to put two satellites into orbit. These satellites will detect “super-emitters” in California that release carbon dioxide and methane. Thus, the proposed plan will help curb climate change by regulating greenhouse gas emissions that are produced by oil, gas, waste, and dairy corporations.

In 2016-2018 scientists researched California facilities and found around 600 “super-emitters.” Even though this is less than 0.2% of California’s infrastructure, the facilities were producing more than one-third of methane emissions. It was concluded that the biggest polluters were landfills, the dairy industry, as well as oil and gas operations. Therefore, the satellite experiment will assist scientists, and possibly the E.P.A, by making it easier to address point source pollution in the atmosphere. Scientists are also planning to use the data from the satellites to try and implement more laws around reducing emissions.

Oil Towers Burning Off Methane
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The first phase of the project includes the two satellites, but by 2025 the program plans to have 20 or more satellites in orbit. More partners for the project are NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, San Francisco’s earth imaging company; Planet, the University of Arizona, and Arizona State University. All in all, satellites that track “super-emitters” would be revolutionary in the way we regulate the atmosphere. Consequently, the two satellites show promise in tracking emissions and holding corporations accountable.


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