Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Maggie Kohn headshot

Harnessing Satellite Technology Could Boost Climate Action

As we hear more warnings about dire outcomes during this week’s Climate Action Summit, a new initiative using satellite data may be part of the solution.
By Maggie Kohn
climate action

TriplePundit is covering the U.N. General Assembly and Climate Week NYC through the weekend. You can follow our coverage here

 As climate scientists continue to warn of dire outcomes during this week’s UN Climate Action Summit if global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are not rapidly slashed, a new initiative using satellite data may be part of the solution.

The Satellites for Climate Action initiative, announced at yesterday’s Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, will use satellite data to monitor greenhouse gas emissions and map and quantify problem areas that were previously unknown or inaccurately measured. The hope is that the initiative will allow governments and organizations to enact more targeted and effective climate mitigation strategies and turn satellite data into actionable information to accelerate climate protection.

The initiative was announced by Michael Bloomberg, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and San Francisco-based earth-imaging company Planet. Bloomberg will support the project with an undisclosed level of funding.

Planet operates the largest constellation of Earth-observing satellites in orbit, acquiring near-daily imagery covering Earth’s entire landmass. Satellites for Climate Action will use this technology to help fill climate data gaps in ongoing environmental research and climate monitoring by analyzing coal-fired plant operations globally and measuring essential climate variables. This will help governments and organizations, which are often stymied from taking stronger climate action due to lack of data.

In addition to monitoring coal-fired plant operations, Satellites for Climate Action will explore a new generation of satellite technologies with enhanced capabilities to detect greenhouse gases such as methane and CO2. It also is expected to develop new geospatial analytics that can directly enable conservation efforts for forests, coral reefs and other natural resources.

“Data is one of the most powerful tools we have in the fight against climate change,” said Bloomberg in yesterday’s announcement. “The better we can measure factors like greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, the faster and more effectively we can address them, and the easier it is for the public to hold leaders accountable. This partnership will empower governments and businesses to take action.”

Governor Newsom said yesterday that the state would work with partners to use the satellite data to ensure that expected emissions reductions are happening, enforce existing regulations, and identify cheaper and faster ways to achieve further reductions.

Under the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program, California is striving to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. Last month, Governor Newsom announced that GHG emissions in the state continued to fall ahead of schedule as the state’s economy grew ahead of the national average. The data from the California Air Resources Board’s latest state inventory of climate-changing emissions also showed that for the first time since California started to track GHG emissions, the state power grid used more energy from zero-GHG sources like solar and wind power than from electrical generation powered by fossil fuels.

“This technology [Satellites for Climate Action] gives us an important set of new tools to detect, monitor and cut greenhouse gas emissions,” said CARB’s chair Mary Nichols. “This initiative is exactly the type of collaboration we need to tackle climate change.”

Image credit: SpaceX/Unsplash

Maggie Kohn headshot

Maggie Kohn is excited to be a contributor to Triple Pundit to illustrate how business can achieve positive change in the world while supporting long-term growth. Maggie worked for more than 20 years at the biopharma giant Merck & Co., Inc., leading corporate responsibility and social business initiatives. She currently writes, speaks and consults on corporate responsibility and social impact when she is not busy fostering kittens for her local animal shelter. Click here to learn more.

Read more stories by Maggie Kohn