Communities, companies, authorities, and investors are finding ways of transitioning to a more sustainable future. To do so, we need to know where the problems are on the planet. Some buildings may be expelling heat more inefficiently than others, or methane emissions may be linked to a particular industrial activity. Space-based technology provides a large-scale perspective of what is happening on the planet so we can decide how to solve the problems that cause global warming.
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As the planet warms, research has shown that the chances of reversing catastrophic warming are low. However, that does not mean we cannot do whatever we can to minimize climate change to meet global net-zero goals by 2050. When we think of efforts to minimize climate change, we normally imagine wind turbines, solar panels, hydrogen, and electric cars. A lesser-known but very interesting part of the fight against climate change lies within space technology.
Measuring the Thermal Footprint of Buildings
Earth observation company SatelliteVu provides the world’s first satellite constellations that measure the thermal footprint of any building on Earth in near real-time every hour or two.
This information supports the work to increase the energy efficiency of worldwide infrastructures such as factories and power stations. These insights also tell us about economic activity and energy efficiency.
Their unique sensors detect the surface temperature on Earth as well as heat emitted from buildings. This informs town authorities and business leaders about energy loss hotspots in buildings and waterways.
Thermal water pollution reduces water quality due to rising ambient water temperature. So far, thermal space imaging has used low resolutions, but new thermal imaging satellites released by SatelliteVu will offer an improved resolution with more detail.
SatelliteVu has recently announced they it will make its carbon emissions data open-access in a commitment to raise awareness of sustainability in the business economy. The company states:
The COP26 summit at the end of 2021 reaffirmed the call for governments and businesses to take action against climate change. The global aim, initially crafted by an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, is to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050, and Satellite Vu will become one of the first major space companies to share their carbon emissions data publicly in a drive towards these goals.
Managing Methane with a Satellite
Methane emissions from fossil fuels make up over a quarter of our global temperature rise. Methane emissions commonly derive from the production of fossil fuels such as oil and gas and large-scale livestock farming.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has developed a compact satellite called MethaneSat which monitors methane reductions on the planet, with more accuracy than any other satellite. This will help to monitor the activity of the oil and gas industry to find out how great the methane immersions in the industry are and pinpoint where the highest levels of emissions derive from.
Another great provider of analytical insights is Sylvera, the world’s first carbon offset rating provider. The company is using machine learning and satellite data to support the carbon offsetting industry. These are valued services to investors as firms face more stringent carbon credit standards and work to transition to a carbon-neutral status.
Many Forms of Space Tech Fight Climate Change
Aside from these interesting industrial developments, space-based technology continues to support the fight against climate change in many other ways.
According to the European Space Agency (ESA), satellite-based technologies are cutting the carbon dioxide emissions of vehicles, while remote sensing systems are supporting wind turbines to become more efficient, meaning that more homes can rely on wind for their electricity needs.
The data gathered from weather satellites also help support solar cells to generate more energy. One such example is the French company Leosphere which has created a small piece of equipment to measure the speed and direction of the wind from the ground.
Italy-based Flyby predicted the power output of photovoltaic power plants to improve systems through the identification of operational faults in the photovoltaic plants. These faults can lower energy production by over 10% a year.
There is a new kind of satnav system called GreenDrive developed by Alex Ackerman and Yossef Shiri that considers the car make, location, and surrounding road conditions to suggest how to drive, when to accelerate, and what route to take. This encourages economical driving, cutting up to a quarter of fuel as a result.
Taking action to fight climate change is not just here on the surface of the Earth, we can take leaps forward in space, particularly with the use of satellite and remote sensing technology to monitor what is happening on the planet and mitigate problem areas. This has been demonstrated by company innovations discussed which are supporting a worldwide net-zero transition.
References and Further Reading
This space technology can cut climate pollution on Earth [Online]. Environmental Defense Fund. Available at: https://www.edf.org/climate/space-technology-can-cut-climate-pollution-earth
Sylvera – homepage [Online]. Available at: https://www.sylvera.com/
SatelliteVu – homepage [Online]. Available at: https://www.satellitevu.com/
Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5C [Online]. IPCC. Available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/
Space technology helps mitigate climate change [Online]. European Space Agency. Available at: https://www.esa.int/Applications/Technology_Transfer/Space_technology_helps_mitigate_climate_change