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Carbon Mapper launches satellite program to pinpoint methane and CO2 super emitters

(15 April 2021 - Carbon Mapper) Carbon Mapper, a new nonprofit organization, and its partners – the State of California, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA JPL), Planet, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University (ASU), High Tide Foundation and RMI – today announced a pioneering program to help improve understanding of and accelerate reductions in global methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

In addition, the Carbon Mapper consortium announced its plan to deploy a ground-breaking hyperspectral satellite constellation with the ability to pinpoint, quantify and track point-source methane and CO2 emissions.

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Carbon Mapper is designed to detect at least 80% of high emission CH4 and CO2 point sources on the planet through a combination of sensitivity, moderate spatial coverage (high priority regions), and daily to weekly sampling provided by our constellation of multiple satellites. In doing so, Carbon Mapper will contribute to an emerging international system of systems – other satellites and surface-based monitoring systems that will that collectively provide global situational awareness of CH4 and CO2 emissions for many applications. (courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“This decade represents an all-hands-on-deck moment for humanity to make critical progress in addressing climate change,” said Riley Duren, Carbon Mapper CEO and research scientist at the University of Arizona. “Our mission is to help fill gaps in the emerging global ecosystem of methane and CO2 monitoring systems by delivering data that’s timely, actionable and accessible for science-based decision making.”

“The Carbon Mapper consortium is a novel multi-stakeholder partnership where each actor is an expert in their own domain that allows for us to do more than we can alone,” said Robbie Schingler, Planet co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer. “Planet is proud to be the commercial and technology partner to deliver needed data for climate action while accelerating humanity toward a more efficient, sustainable global economy.”

As the window to limit global warming narrows, there is an urgent need to deploy new technologies that can quickly and accurately measure greenhouse gas emissions across the globe. Current approaches to measure methane and CO2 emissions at the scale of individual facilities – particularly intermittent activity – present challenges especially in terms of transparency, accuracy, scalability and cost. In short, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

“These home-grown satellites are a game-changer. They provide California with a powerful, state-of-the-art tool to help us slash emissions of the super-pollutant methane– within our own borders and around the world. That’s exactly the kind of dynamic, forward-thinking solution we need now to address the existential crisis of climate change,” states California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Carbon Mapper will help overcome these technological barriers and enable accelerated action by making high emitting methane and CO2 sources publicly visible and at the facility level quickly and persistently. The data collected by the Carbon Mapper constellation of satellites will provide more complete, precise, and timely measurement of point source methane and CO2 emissions as well as 25+ other environmental indicators.

“What makes Carbon Mapper unique is that it greatly expands both methane and CO2 emissions transparency for decision makers and civil society,” said RMI Senior Fellow Deborah Gordon. “RMI can use Carbon Mapper to help certify low-methane natural gas and make emissions visible to accelerate action on a global scale.”

Carbon Mapper, in collaboration with its public and private partners, is developing the satellite constellation in three phases. The initial study phase is complete and included two years of preliminary engineering development and manufacturing. Phase 1 is underway and includes development of the first two satellites by Planet and NASA JPL, planned to launch in 2023, accompanying data processing platforms, and ongoing cooperative methane mitigation pilot projects using aircraft in California and other US states. Phase 2, which is in development, would encompass the expansion to an operational multi-satellite constellation starting in 2025.

Carbon Mapper, in collaboration with California’s Air Resources Board (CARB), is also developing a public portal to make the data available for use by industry, governments, and private citizens to improve greenhouse gas accounting, expedite repair of leaks, support disaster response, and improve environmental resilience.

“These satellites will help California identify and reduce methane emissions from industrial and energy sources, and also provides valuable data to help us manage our natural and working lands for climate resiliency,” says CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “CARB looks forward to providing a public platform for the greenhouse gas data and exploring how the land-use data can inform decisions on forest management, fire prevention and water quality.”

“High Tide led the funding effort for Carbon Mapper to catalyze low-cost mitigation of greenhouse gases, by creating an innovative partnership model to identify dangerous leaks of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon Mapper is uniquely positioned to maximize the impact of philanthropic dollars,” states Richard Lawrence, Founder and Director of High Tide Foundation.

Powered by philanthropy, Carbon Mapper convenes a unique coalition of private and public sector actors with the combined expertise and resources to deploy a science-driven, sustained and operational decision support service for maximum impact.

NASA JPL will deliver the hyperspectral imaging spectrometer payload for the first Carbon Mapper satellite, leveraging advanced remote sensing technology with many years of heritage on aircraft and spacecraft. JPL will also provide technical assistance to Planet’s development of the payload for the additional satellites. These spectrometers offer unparalleled sensitivity, resolution, and versatility.

Planet, operator of the largest-ever fleet of earth imaging satellites, will design and build the satellites – leveraging the hyperspectral imaging sensor from NASA JPL – and operate the fleet with its existing missions system architecture. Planet will further contribute its rapid revisit satellites, data, and analytics technologies to deliver and pinpoint methane emission for governments, private and public institutions, citizens, facility operators and more. Planet’s ability to commercialize data products is key to the buildout and continuity of the multi-satellite constellation.

California Air Resources Board (CARB) maintains policy leadership and a pioneering approach to understanding and taking action to reduce climate pollutants and exposure in communities impacted by air pollution. CARB is already working with University of Arizona, JPL, and ASU to use airborne prototypes of Carbon Mapper to demonstrate mitigation and improved accounting with facility operators across California.

High Tide Foundation has led the extensive philanthropic investment in Carbon Mapper through which they are seeking to deliver on their goal to have a significant measurable impact on climate change mitigation.

The University of Arizona offers scientific leadership of the methane and CO2 emissions data delivery, including developing new algorithms and analytic frameworks and testing them with an ongoing airborne research program. The University also provides key staff and other resources to the Carbon Mapper non-profit.

Arizona State University (ASU) provides scientific leadership for non-methane and CO2 data products and supports Planet’s efforts to develop new environmental indicators on the land and in the oceans. ASU’s Global Airborne Observatory is also critical for Carbon Mapper’s airborne prototyping and field campaigns.

RMI helps guide methane use case applications for Carbon Mapper, satellite observation targeting, industry mitigation opportunities, and policy development through its Oil and Gas Solutions Initiative.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, one of the original funders of Satellites for Climate Action, believes access to accurate data is one of the most powerful tools we have in tackling the climate crisis. This partnership builds on Bloomberg Philanthropies’ environmental portfolio, which has a long track record of bringing data and transparency solutions to the fight against climate change, including initiatives such as the Bloomberg Global Coal Countdown.

“Methane emissions are one of the leading causes of climate change around the world, but we need more data to identify the most effective ways to reduce them,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions, Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and 108th Mayor of New York City. “As I like to say, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – and the Carbon Mapper will be a valuable tool in helping us do both.”

Carbon Mapper is setting out to contribute to the growing community of organizations offering science-based guidance to decision makers at all levels of society and builds on Satellites for Climate Action, an initiative launched in 2019 to bring together governments, philanthropists, environmental groups, and technology companies to use satellite technologies to monitor greenhouse gas emissions and turn satellite data into actionable information.

Carbon Mapper is supported by funding from a group of leading philanthropists: High Tide Foundation, Grantham Foundation for Protection of the Environment, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Zegar Family Foundation, other philanthropic donors, and the University of Arizona.

About Carbon Mapper

Carbon Mapper, Inc., is a non-profit (501c3) organization with a mission to deliver and guide the adoption of digital public goods that facilitate timely action to mitigate human impacts to Earth’s climate and ecosystems.

About the University of Arizona

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation’s top 40 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2019 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $734 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 65 leading public and private research universities in the U.S.

About NASA JPL

JPL is a federally-funded research and development center managed by Caltech for NASA. Since the start of the Space Age, JPL has developed and launched robotic missions to explore the solar system and beyond. NASA-JPL missions also monitor Earth from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and airborne and ground-based observation campaigns collecting long-term data records that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

About CARB

CARB’s mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. CARB is the lead agency for climate change programs and oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health-based air quality standards.

About Planet

Planet is the leading provider of global, daily satellite imagery and geospatial solutions. Planet is driven by a mission to image the world every day, and make change visible, accessible and actionable. Founded in 2010 by three NASA scientists, Planet designs, builds, and operates the largest earth observation fleet of imaging satellites, capturing and compiling data from over 3 million images per day. Planet provides mission-critical data, advanced insights, and software solutions to over 600 customers, comprised of the world’s leading agriculture, forestry, intelligence, education and finance companies and government agencies, enabling users to simply and effectively derive unique value from satellite imagery.

About High Tide Foundation

High Tide Foundation is a leading foundation supporting the fight against climate change. High Tide intends to have a significant, measurable impact on climate change mitigation by suppling catalytic funding to a wide variety of organizations. High Tide partners with groups that are passionate, risk-taking, collaborative and who fill critical gaps in climate strategy.

About RMI

RMI is an independent nonprofit founded in 1982 that transforms global energy systems through market-driven solutions to align with a 1.5°C future and secure a clean, prosperous, zero-carbon future for all. We work in the world’s most critical geographies and engage businesses, policymakers, communities, and NGOs to identify and scale energy system interventions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 50 percent by 2030. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Oakland, California; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.

About Arizona State University

Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American Research University, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 810 cities and 170 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2020, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.6 billion.