End of ‘invisible emissions’ as green group announces methane-tracking satellite

The President of the US environmental group Environmental Defense Fund has used a TED Talk to announce plans for a new pollution-tracking satellite. Data gathered from the purpose-built ‘MethaneSAT’ will identify and measure human-made methane emissions, starting from the oil and gas industry.

The project is set to be funded as part of TED’s ‘Audacious Project’ prize, which has gathered more than $400 million in funding for world-changing ideas from major philanthropists.

Revealing the plans at a special event in Vancouver, Canada, EDF President Fred Krupp said:

“Cutting methane emissions from the global oil and gas industry is the single fastest thing we can do to help put the brakes on climate change right now”

Krupp continued:  “…even as we continue to attack the carbon dioxide emissions most people are more familiar with, by providing reliable, fully transparent data on a worldwide scale, MethaneSAT will help transform a serious climate threat into a crucial opportunity.”

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. While industrial farming methods contribute to methane emissions, the oil and gas industry is the major source the satellite will track when it first launches.

The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that 75 million metric tons of methane is released into the atmosphere by the oil and gas industry each year.

Research has found that governments are underestimating official methane emissions levels, and that the actual levels are dangerously high. The new satellite will be able to provide detailed information about the true size and scale of emissions.

Steps to develop a strategy to tackle methane emissions from all sources have recently been taken in the EU.

An event hosted in the European Parliament last month saw MEPs, policy experts and campaign groups discuss the options for tackling methane emissions in Europe.

Despite the fact the methane contributes both to climate change and health-harming air pollution, the EU has so far failed to adopt laws to curb emissions. In 2016 EU national governments overruled proposals from MEPs and the European Commission to include methane in a list of air pollutants that would have to be capped on a national level.