In the fight against climate change, California plans to launch not one but two satellites into orbit to detect and track global warming “super-transmitters” – to prevent global warming from reaching catastrophic levels. Tony Barboza followed the mission and discussed the details with “LA Times Today” host Lisa McRee.
Former California Governor Jerry Brown came up with the idea of ââlaunching a satellite to help fight global warming. âIt goes back a long way because if you remember he earned the nickname Governor Moonbeam for a proposal in the 1970s where he proposed that California launch its own satellite into space. It was considered far-fetched back then, and then a few years ago, 2018, he proposed to do another kind of satellite – a climate tracking satellite. The technology has advanced so much that it’s not really hard to talk about the state having its own satellites in orbit, âsaid Barboza.
Barboza adds that regulators and scientists say more precise monitoring is urgently needed to accelerate greenhouse gas reductions. âThe window of opportunity for the world to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change is shrinking rapidly. These satellites are designed to detect invisible plumes of pollution. Methane, in particular, is known as a super pollutant; it is much more powerful and heat trapping than carbon dioxide, which is the main greenhouse gas. And they can be hard to find, as they can come from anything from a gas pipeline to a dairy to a gas plant or even a landfill. “
Methane does not persist in the atmosphere as much as carbon dioxide, but it is much more potent when it is still in the atmosphere. âMethane is 80 times more powerful than CO2, and a lot of those facilities where you might not see the emissions from them are actually very damaging to the climate, and you need aerial or satellite measurements to be able to detect and quantify the amount of pollution released from it, âadded Barboza.
Between 2016 and 2018, scientists investigated hundreds of thousands of California facilities, equipment and infrastructure, including oil and gas wells, landfills, gas pipelines, and dairies. They found that around 600 âsuper-emittersâ spewed out more than a third of methane pollution. “They believe that by detecting them, flying and orbiting regularly over them, they will be able to contact the operators of these facilities, get them to make changes, fix these leaks and make things to reduce their emissions.
The program developed under Governor Gavin Newson’s leadership as a donor-funded public-private partnership. âIt’s expensive, and they’re talking about the first phase of the next two years, with the launch of two satellites costing around $ 100 million. That would be to set up these two satellites, “Barboza said.” They want to continue to grow after that in 2025 and install up to 20 or more satellites. It’s going to require more funding, more donors, but it’s kind of like a public-private partnership where you have people like the California Air Resources Board and NASA. It’s sort of a lot of different actors working together to get these instruments into orbit. “
Barboza followed up with former Gov. Jerry Brown, and he said that plan was what he had in mind a few years ago. âHe said he was anxious to find out where exactly the methane was coming out and who was responsible for it. And, too, a plan to phase out methane, so he seemed very happy. He thought California was in a good position to do it, take the information and do something with it. “
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