CO2-tracking satellites crucial for climate efforts, say space experts

(EurActiv, 5 Dec 2019) Current Earth observation technologies are not accurate enough when it comes to monitoring carbon dioxide emissions, according to delegates at the EU’s space week in Helsinki. A new system set to launch in 2025 should change all that.

The EU’s Copernicus satellite system will get an upgrade in just over five years time, with a new model, Sentinel-7, dedicated to monitoring anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Three satellites are expected to orbit the earth 14 times a day.

Each satellite will be capable of viewing 250km of the earth’s surface during a pass, marking a significant improvement on the current crop of orbiters, the most advanced of which can only see 15km. The European Space Agency has already been in contact with potential manufacturers.

Once the fleet is in space, technicians will be able to pinpoint exactly where carbon emissions are coming from. Copernicus satellites have so far only been able to give an average reading on CO2 concentration but not the specific source of emissions.

“Current CO2 observation is not as accurate as we need and gives only partial results. The new Copernicus system will change that. It’s much more complicated to observe emissions than concentration,” said Florence Rabler of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

The practical applications are vast, as policy-makers will be able to judge whether measures like congestion charges, diesel bans or carbon trading schemes are working as intended.

Sentinel-7 is also expected to launch shortly before the next global emissions stocktake, scheduled under the Paris Agreement. Sentinels 5 and 6, dedicated to atmospheric monitoring and sea-level rise, are expected to launch in 2020 and 2021.

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EurActiv, 5 Dec 2019: CO2-tracking satellites crucial for climate efforts, say space experts