The IAEA will monitor large pollutants from space

The Carbon Mapper consortium wants to develop a network of satellites to monitor greenhouse gas emissions on Earth. In this way heavy pollutants can be identified with a great degree of certainty. It is hoped that it will be able to launch the planet’s first two satellites within two years. The first expansion will follow two years later.

Carbon Mapper is a joint initiative of the US state of California, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Planet Labs.

Climate change

The intent is that satellites can track sources of methane, carbon dioxide, and more than two dozen other products that contribute to climate change. “The initiative should increase transparency around the emissions of fossil fuel producers and processors,” stresses Riley Doran, Director of the Carbon Scheme.

It should be remembered that this sector is responsible for about a third of the volumes of methane produced by human activities. There are a number of critical milestones that must be achieved quickly in combating climate change.

“The satellite network could fill a number of gaps in the global methane and carbon dioxide emissions monitoring system,” says Doran. The network enables up-to-date, accessible and informative data for science-based decision-making.

He notes that scientists have only recently begun to identify the largest sources of methane.


Methane is a greenhouse gas about eighty times more powerful than carbon dioxide during the first two decades of its existence in the atmosphere. At least a quarter of global warming has to be attributed to human-induced methane emissions, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

Although observations of greenhouse gases from space can be affected by cloud cover, precipitation and varying light intensities, this technology offers the possibility to correlate recorded leaks with individual pollutants.

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This capacity increases as more satellites are launched, allowing for more accuracy and more frequent coverage.

Control company GHG Sat, which uses its own satellites for surveillance and relies on data from the European Space Agency, had already indicated in February that it had been able to attribute the leaks to at least eight pipelines and gas installations in Turkmenistan within hours in the atmosphere. .

“If the data from all control initiatives can be collected and managed efficiently, then an excellent system can be built to accurately quantify global emissions,” says Doreen. “This can be of great importance to business, politics and society.”


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