California Announces Ambitious Satellite Program to Track Greenhouse Emissions

Environmental Defense Fund welcomes state initiative, which will harmonize with EDF’s own MethaneSAT mission and other space-based monitoring efforts

September 14, 2018
Jon Coifman, (212) 616-1325,
Jennifer Andreassen, (202) 288-4867,

(SAN FRANCISCO) Gov. Jerry Brown announced today at the close of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco that the state of California will develop and eventually launch a satellite to track and measure emissions of climate-warming emissions including methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The new effort offers an important complement to Environmental Defense Fund’s MethaneSAT, scheduled for launch in 2021.

An initiative of the California Air Resources Board, the satellite is intended to detect concentrated “point sources” of climate pollutants, monitoring leaks and other anomalies at specific locations where emissions are known to occur. EDF’s MethaneSAT, on the other hand, will provide broader, more frequent coverage, quantifying emissions from oil and gas fields producing at least 80 percent of global output roughly once every four days. It’s designed to quantify total emissions from oil and gas infrastructure and track both known and previously unknown emission sources.

For example, when MethaneSAT waves the red flag about an emissions spike in a given field, the California instrument would then zero in on specific facilities and pinpoint the larger sources. It’s like having two camera lenses — wide angle and telephoto — that together produce a more complete picture of the methane problem.

“This new initiative is a critical part of Governor Brown’s bold commitment to harness leading-edge technology in the fight against climate change,” said EDF President Fred Krupp. “These satellite technologies are part of a new era of environmental innovation that is supercharging our ability to solve problems. They won’t cut emissions by themselves, but they will make invisible pollution visible and generate the transparent, actionable data we need to protect our health, our environment, and our economies.”

EDF experts have been coordinating efforts with the California team. Working together and providing robust, independent data streams, the two missions will produce an unassailable trove of publicly transparent data that enables rapid monitoring of emission rates in key regions around the world. The information, available free of charge to citizens, companies and countries alike, will improve national methane accounting, identify opportunities for companies and countries to make reductions, and help monitor their progress over time.

Click HERE for more background on different methane satellite technologies.

Human-made methane emissions from oil and gas, agriculture, and other sources are responsible for 25 percent of the warming the world is experiencing today. Methane emissions present a key opportunity to slow the rate of warming now, even as the de-carbonization of the world’s energy systems continues. EDF’s goal is to reduce global oil and gas methane emissions 45 percent by 2025. This would deliver the same 20-year benefit to the climate as closing 1300 coal-fired power plants — one-third of all the coal plants in the world. They aim to virtually eliminate oil and gas methane emissions by 2050.

Brown also announced that California plans to work with EDF and others to create a new Climate Data Partnership to serve as a common platform for reporting data from these and other satellite systems studying climate variables and the earth’s atmosphere. By making that information available to companies, governments and the public, the aim is to empower climate advocates and foster the rapid adoption of new, more effective emission reduction efforts by both public and private sector decision makers worldwide.

“The best way to think of these projects is as a set of overlapping circles, like the Olympic rings,” said Tom Ingersoll, the former CEO of Skybox Imaging and Universal Space Network, who is leading EDF’s MethaneSAT project. “Multiple methods of assessing methane emissions lead to a more complete and actionable set of insights than any single method can by itself.”

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EDF has a team of experts on hand at the Global Climate Action Summit.

For information on MethaneSAT, America’s Pledge, carbon pricing or other issues, contact:

Jennifer Andreassen,, or (202) 288-4867 (on-site mobile) or

Jon Coifman,, or (212) 616-1325


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