World leaders pledge a crackdown on methane emissions. Here’s how satellites can help.

Satellites will play a key position in serving to the world slash emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane consistent with a world pledge launched by the U.S. President Joe Biden and European Union leaders on the COP26 local weather change convention in Glasgow this week. 

The pledge, unveiled Tuesday (Nov. 2), has already been signed by greater than 100 international locations from everywhere in the world. The leaders have centered on methane, the second commonest greenhouse gas, because it performs extraordinarily nicely in warming the Earth’s atmosphere

While accounting for less than about 16% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, methane is 80 occasions simpler in warming the local weather than the commonest greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The methane pledge challenges international locations to chop emissions of the gas, which often leaks from oil and gas processing vegetation and landfills, by 30% by the tip of this decade.

Methane is answerable for at the very least a quarter of the present world warming, the European Commission said in a statement, and getting its emissions in examine might scale back the projected atmospheric warming by 0.28 levels Celsius by 2050. 

Related: 10 devastating signs of climate change visible from space

The E.U. launched its methane strategy on Oct. 14 and on Oct. 31 introduced its help of the International Methane Emissions Observatory launched by the United Nations’ Environment Program. At the guts of those discount efforts is the necessity for higher monitoring and identification of emission sources. 

In skilled panels on the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, specialists have mentioned how satellites can assist the world take higher inventory of its emissions and determine main polluters. Currently, international locations stock their very own emissions primarily based on the exercise of their numerous polluting industries. The course of, specialists say, normally includes important delays and supplies little when it comes to actionable insights. 

Beth Greenaway, the pinnacle of Earth commentary and local weather on the UK Space Agency, stated in a briefing that there’s a “huge untapped potential” in satellite tv for pc expertise in relation to monitoring methane emissions. She added that the trade now has a number of missions within the pipeline that “will hopefully help tackle the problem in the next few years.”

Currently, Canadian satellite tv for pc firm GHGSat operates three spacecraft fitted with sensors able to detecting particular person sources of methane comparable to landfills, mines and oil and gas processing vegetation. 

But different operators, government-funded and personal alike, additionally plan to launch constellations designed to maintain an eye fixed on main methane leaks. 

On Tuesday, the E.U.’s Copernicus Earth commentary program introduced a new greenhouse gas monitoring constellation developed along with the European Space Agency. The constellation, a part of a program known as European CO2 Monitoring and Verification Support Capacity (CO2MVS), will be capable to detect sources of  methane and carbon dioxide, the 2 most important greenhouse gases. 

The U.S. Earth commentary firm Planet can also be working on a new constellation that goals to assist crack the methane downside. Planet’s constellation, dubbed Carbon Mapper, is a partnership with NASA JPL, Arizona State University and High Tide Foundation. 

The firm is now constructing its first two prototype satellites, that are anticipated to launch in 2023. Once absolutely operational, the constellation will present each day revisits of all factors on Earth, Jeff Guido, mission director of the Carbon Mapper challenge at Planet, stated in a briefing.

Guido stated the brand new constellation will in the end present related efficiency to Planet’s optical imaging fleet SkySat, which photographs your entire floor of Earth in 20-inch (50 cm) decision a number of occasions a day. 

“We expect that the [new] constellation will be of a similar size,” Guido stated. “The whole intent is to really increase the overall capacity of the system so that we can see everything we want to see, all high priority targets on a global scale and daily basis.” 

MethaneSAT, a spinoff challenge of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, is predicted to launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in October 2022.

The COP26 local weather change convention that’s happening within the Scottish metropolis of Glasgow from Nov. 1 to Nov. 12, seeks to encourage international locations to strengthen their greenhouse gas discount targets to be able to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement. This treaty, negotiated at COP21 in Paris in 2015 binds international locations to attempt to maintain the worldwide temperature rise beneath 1.5 levels Celsius. 

The present commitments, nevertheless, don’s appear adequate to satisfy this aim. According to the Emissions Gap Report 21, launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) final week, the world is at present on observe to see world temperatures soar by 2.7 levels Celsius by the tip of this century.

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Humankind is already tasting the results of the progressing local weather change. Extreme climate occasions at the moment are “a new normal”, based on the World Meteorological Organization. 

The year 2021 witnessed a vary of disastrous occasions affecting international locations on all continents. Satellites have been observing ice sheets melting at unprecedented charges as polar areas heat up quicker than different components of the world. Tropical storms have battered areas unused to them, such because the coast of the desert-covered Arabian state of Oman. Record-breaking warmth waves led to devastating wildfires, which devoured huge areas of forest and land, releasing large quantities of the chief warming agent, carbon dioxide, into Earth’s ambiance. 

Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

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