California governor Jerry Brown waited for the closing remarks at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco to announce that his state plans to launch its own satellite to track pollutants which cause climate change and pinpoint where they originate.
Tracking Pollution in Urban Regions With California’s Own Satellite In The Near Future?
In a statement in defiance of the US President Donald Trump and federal government’s stance against the concept of climate change, the governor said California would be launching “its own damn satellite” to help governments, businessmen and landowners pinpoint, and then hopefully reduce, the emissions which were contributing to climate change, at their source.
It’s not the first time Brown has made this statement. It’s a repeat of one he made to scientists at the American Geophysical Union’s meeting at the same San Francisco venue two years ago. He was also responding then to the threat of satellite and other climate monitoring programme cuts by the federal government. And this was before Trump took office.
— Gov. Brown Press Office (@GovPressOffice) 14 September 2018
“With science still under attack and the climate threat growing, we’re launching our own damn satellite,” said Governor Brown. “This groundbreaking initiative will help governments, businesses and landowners pinpoint – and stop – destructive emissions with unprecedented precision, on a scale that’s never been done before.”
Satellite Planned as Part of Current Strategy
However, this time it is being made in the context of developments underway in the state towards achieving it. The satellite project forms part of a multi-levelled strategy already underway in California. This is touted to have the potential to cut back the impact of global emissions annually by the equivalent of that produced by 1,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or by 200 million of the vehicles that take to the road every year.
According to Brown, the satellite’s major purpose will be to fill in the biggest gap in the data currently available to governments, businesses and other parties interested in climate change globally. What is still missing in the available information is the exact source of the climate pollutants, and especially the so-called super pollutants which have the greatest heat-trapping ability, but which don’t remain in the atmosphere as long as other greenhouse gases.
“The time has never been more urgent or your work never more important,” said Governor Brown in that 2016 speech at the American Geophysical Union’s annual fall meeting. “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the universities, we have the national labs and we have the political clout and sophistication for the battle – and we will persevere. Have no doubt about that.”
Pinpointing The Sources of Emissions
The new satellite will therefore be designed with the precision to pinpoint the sources of these emissions exactly, so that they can be identified, and action taken to lessen the destructive emissions at their source.
“This new initiative is a critical part of Governor Brown’s bold commitment to harness leading edge technology in the fight against climate change,” said EDF President Fred Krupp. “These satellite technologies are part of a new era of environmental innovation that is supercharging our ability to solve problems. They won’t cut emissions by themselves, but they will make invisible pollution visible and generate the transparent, actionable, data we need to protect our health, our environment and our economies.”
Working with the State of California and the California Air Resource’s Board, on developing and launching the new earth-watching satellite will be Planet Labs, an earth imaging company based in San Francisco. This facility has already notched up 150 such satellite launches since it was started by a group of former NASA scientists eight years ago.
Data for Public Release
Data collected by the new satellite will be made available to the public via the planned Climate Data Partnership common platform. Once established, this platform will correlate data reporting from it and other satellites that collect similar climate-related data. Various other bodies will be involved, including the Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) which introduced its climate change project MethaneSAT earlier this year, and plans to launch its own satellite in 2021 to track methane emissions.
Brown believes that the satellite will not only lead to greater precision in emissions monitoring, and therefore better decision-making, but it will also ensure that the State of California is able to continue gathering data independently.