Tracking carbon dioxide emissions from space could help support climate agreements

The central goal of Paris agreement is to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, but preferably 1.5°C.

This challenging task will require policies and tools to enable every sector of society to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to eventually reach net zero.

Enacting the most effective and efficient strategies to reduce emissions starts with knowing in detail where, when and how much greenhouse gases we emit, followed by implementing policies to reduce emissions and tracking our progress.

Is it possible to track carbon dioxide emissions and reduce emissions from space? New search from my group indicates that.

Why is carbon dioxide important?

Carbon dioxide is Primary greenhouse gases driving climate change. Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, heat buildings, industry, and transportation has raised carbon dioxide in our atmosphere far beyond normal levels.

Currently, carbon dioxide emissions are mainly reported by calculating the mass of fossil fuels purchased and used, and then calculating projected emissions — not actual measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Exact details about exactly when and where emissions occurred are often not available, but more transparent monitoring of carbon dioxide emissions can help track the effectiveness of policies to reduce emissions.

today GPS satellites help us get around, Meteorological satellites Track weather systems and communications satellites and relay TV, Internet, and phone signals. It’s time to use satellites to help tackle the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced – climate change.

Carbon dioxide satellites

global network of Terrestrial carbon dioxide measurements began in 1957 It now consists of More than a hundred stations around the world. Accurate and accurate measurements from these stations have revealed a lot of changes in carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere and the overall carbon cycle of the Earth, but we cannot place these stations everywhere on Earth.

Satellites can monitor the entire planet. Those that measure carbon dioxide in the lower atmosphere near the Earth’s surface (where carbon dioxide emissions occur and plants absorb carbon dioxide) first started making measurements in 2002. Since then, they’ve gotten better and better at doing it, but it’s been There are setbacks along the way.

Nearly a decade of effort went into development by NASA Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) A satellite to make precise measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide across the Earth.

NASA developed the Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite to make precise measurements of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.
(NASA/JPL)And the Author introduced

In 2009, OCO was lost due to a launch problem. After persistent advocacy for the rebuilding of this critical climate mission, NASA has secured new funding for the launch OCO-2 satellite in 2014 and OCO-3 to the International Space Station in 2019.

The OCO missions are designed to improve our understanding of vegetation uptake of carbon dioxide, also known as carbon dioxide Earth’s carbon sink. But what about carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels?

A new way to check carbon dioxide emissions

In 2017, she led a research team that published a dossier The first study shows that we can quantify carbon dioxide emissions at the scale of an individual power plant using OCO-2 observations.

Because OCO-2 was not designed for this purpose, its coverage and irregular visits were insufficient to monitor global operational CO2 emissions, but we can still quantify emissions in Mark instances when the satellite passes close enough and gets a good cloud-free view.

OCO-3 is very similar to OCO-2, but it has an additional pointing mirror that enables it to better map carbon dioxide around important targets such as Belchatów Power Station In Poland, the largest fossil-fuel-burning power plant in Europe and an emitter of carbon dioxide.

Tracking carbon dioxide emissions from space could help support climate agreements
Bełchatów Power Station, the largest fossil-fuel-burning power station in Europe.

With ten clear views of the carbon dioxide emission plumes from Bełchatów imaged by OCO-2 and OCO-3 from 2017-2022 analyzed in our New studyWe were able to determine the emissions in those days.

European Power Plants Report Hourly power generation But only annual carbon dioxide emissions. Power generation fluctuates with electricity demand and generation units shut down (for maintenance or shutdown) and CO2 emissions are expected to show relative fluctuations.

We confirmed this using OCO-2 and OCO-3 in Our last paper, which showed that satellite observations could track changes in carbon dioxide emissions at the facility level. This means that satellites can be used to verify (or disprove) reported reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from climate change mitigation — such as mandatory efficiency improvements, carbon capture and storage technology, and so on.

OCO-3 observations of a carbon dioxide emission plume from the Bełchatów Power Station in Poland on April 10, 2020 are overlaid on Google Earth imagery.
A plume of elevated carbon dioxide from coal combustion downwind from the Bełchatów power plant is evident in the OCO-3 observations.
(Ray Nassar)And the Author introduced

Emissions control of the Paris Agreement

Our approach could be applied to more power plants or modified for CO2 emissions from Cities or countries with OCO-2 and OCO-3. We could also try to combine satellite observations with CO2 monitoring from the ground or aircraft.

While we are already working on this, progress will only be incremental until the European Commission funding is released The Copernicus mission to monitor anthropogenic carbon dioxide, or CO2M.. CO2M consists of two satellites, which are intended to launch in the late 2025 year.

These satellites will provide about 50 times the coverage of OCO-2 and OCO-3 combined and will form The space component of the European CO2 Emissions Monitoring, Verification and Support System (MVS).

Carbon dioxide would be a huge advance, but just like successful global climate action, it will require contributions from many countries. A robust, long-term, operational global monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions needs A constellation of satellites contributed by multiple countries as part of an integrated global monitoring system.

Hopefully, with new, more detailed, and transparent tracking of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions to assess and guide us toward the most effective policies, society can achieve the emissions reductions needed to get there. Net zero in time.

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