The UN summit on climate change (COP27) held in Sharm El-Sheikh this November brought together leaders from nearly 200 countries to work on international agreements, initiatives and partnerships for both adapting to climate change, and mitigating climate change. One of the key elements of the negotiations is related to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) where each country commits to reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases.  However, while these commitments have no sanctions, the monitoring of these emissions is also very difficult.  At the COP27 there was a specific push towards reducing methane gas in the atmosphere, since it is a very powerful greenhouse gas, and it has a much shorter lifetime in the atmosphere compared with CO2.

Here is where Earth Observations and remote sensing play a critical role.  New satellites for monitoring local and regional methane concentrations are being used together with ground based observations to estimate the national emissions of methane per country.  Not only are satellites being used to monitor the country’s emissions, but countries can use the space-based measurements to find where within their country the emissions are coming from.  The three main contributors are oil and gas facilities and pipelines, waste management and landfills, and agriculture such as beef and rice farming.  Knowing the source of the national emissions will allow countries to focus on reducing their emissions and meeting the UN goals by 2030 and beyond.

(this text was prepared by Prof. Colin Price)

With its Scientific Commission engaging in studies of the Earth from space, its Task Group on Global Climate Change, and its thousands of scientists convening regularly in assemblies and symposia, COSPAR helps develop the contributions and solutions that space research brings to fight climate change