Private Satellite to Track Carbon Polluters

Attention, greenhouse gas emitters: There’s a new eye in the sky that will soon be photographing your carbon footprint and selling the images to any and all. It’s a microsatellite dubbed Claire (clear or bright in French) by its Montreal-based developer, GHGSat.

This microwave-oven-size pollution paparazzo rocketed to a 512-kilometer-high orbit in mid-June, care of the Indian Space Research Organization, with a mission to remotely measure the plumes of carbon dioxide and methane wafting up from myriad sources on Earth’s surface. Claire’s targets include power plants, natural-gas fracking fields, rice paddies, and much more—just about any emissions source that someone with a checkbook (corporations, regulators, activists) wants tracked, according to GHGSat president Stéphane Germain.

Germain says Claire’s data can improve compliance reporting to regulators and carbon markets, enable tracking of industrial efficiency, and provide competitive intelligence, among other uses. “Our vision is to be the global standard for emissions monitoring across the world. That’s ambitious, but we think it’s attainable,” he says.

Space agencies already monitor emissions from orbit. They have launched a series of satellites such as Japan’s Ibuki mission to track atmospheric CO2and methane, and those missions are delivering an important reality check on national pollution inventories, which are based largely on engineering estimates.

Both satellite and ground-based research have identified vast undercounting of methane emissions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, prompting the agency to revise its inventories earlier this year.

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