‘We’re launching our own damn satellite’ — Gov. Brown

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, September 17, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) announced plans today to launch a satellite to monitor heat-trapping emissions, fulfilling a pledge he made immediately after the election of Donald Trump.

“With science still under attack and the climate threat growing, we’re launching our own damn satellite,” Brown said at the Global Climate Action Summit, a two-day conference in San Francisco aimed at strengthening emissions-reduction commitments from governments and the private sector.

“This groundbreaking initiative will help governments, businesses and landowners pinpoint — and stop — destructive emissions with unprecedented precision, on a scale that’s never been done before.”

Brown, who is termed out this year, has made climate change a signature focus of his final two years in office. He said in December 2016 that California would launch its own satellite in response to scientists’ concerns about federal climate research funding under Trump.

Brown, who previously served as governor from 1975 to 1983 and ran for president three times, also advocated for space exploration and state-sponsored satellites earlier in his political career, earning him the sobriquet “Gov. Moonbeam” from Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko (Climatewire, June 26, 2017).

Brown said the satellite would be capable of detecting the origin of various climate pollutants, including “super-pollutants” that persist for less time in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide but have a more potent heat-trapping effect.

The satellite will be developed and operated by a private company, San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc., in collaboration with the state Air Resources Board.

It will be funded privately as well; initial supporters are the Overlook International Foundation and the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, founded by the investors Richard Lawrence and Jeremy Grantham, respectively.

“We are proud to have played a role to use philanthropy as a tool to partner with government and the private sector to give the world real time greenhouse gas emissions at the very low cost that only satellites can provide,” Lawrence and Grantham said in a statement.

The data from the satellite will be used in a new climate data initiative that Brown also announced today. The Climate Data Partnership is intended to serve as a common platform for reporting data from various satellites studying greenhouse gas emissions.

“These satellite technologies are part of a new era of environmental innovation that is supercharging our ability to solve problems,” said EDF President Fred Krupp, whose organization unveiled plans for a methane-monitoring satellite in April to identify and measure methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. “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.”