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Courtesy of Environmental Defense Fund

This New Satellite Will Combat Climate Change From Space

Methane emissions are a huge environmental problem. But they’re difficult to measure in real time, making it hard to say exactly how big the issue is.

The Environmental Defense Fund hopes to change that. On Tuesday, the organization unveiled plans to launch a methane-measuring satellite into space, during a TED Talk.

Methane is a greenhouse gas — meaning it traps heat and contributes to the warming of the atmosphere — that is released when fossil fuels are extracted from the ground. The harmful gas is also emitted by livestock and produced naturally as organic waste, like that found in landfills, decays.

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So the more fossil fuels we use, the more meat we consume, and the more waste we produce, the worse climate change is. 

“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, even as we continue to attack the carbon dioxide emissions most people are more familiar with,” Fred Krupp, President of the EDF, said.

By gathering more accurate data on how much methane people are producing and where, Krupp hopes to improve efforts to stop climate change in its tracks.

“Twenty-five percent of the warming that the planet is experiencing right now is from man-made methane emissions,” the EDF’s Senior Vice President Mark Brownstein told the Washington Post. “The oil and gas industry is a significant source of those emissions. Reducing those emissions can have a material impact on slowing the rate of warming now.”

Read more: Americans Are Eating 20% Less Beef in Huge Win For Earth

The satellite, called MethaneSAT, is scheduled to launch in three years, NPR reported, and would help compare companies’ and countries’ actual methane emissions with the emissions caps they committed to as part of the Paris agreement.

MethaneSAT will also be able to identify where methane is being emitted. The EDF hopes this data will help countries form more effective policies to address climate change.

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