In closing remarks at last week’s Global Climate Action Summit, Gov. Jerry Bown said the state is teaming up with San Francisco-based Earth imaging company Planet Labs (Planet) to develop and eventually launch a satellite that will track climate change-causing pollutants with unprecedented precision and help the world dramatically reduce these destructive emissions.

“With science still under attack and the climate threat growing, we’re launching our own damn satellite,” Brown said. “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.”

Planet, which was founded by ex-NASA scientists in 2010, operates the world’s largest constellation of satellites in history. In the last two years, Planet has launched more than 150 Earth-imaging satellites, manufactured in San Francisco, helping customers in agriculture, government, mapping, NGOs and in other markets to make better decisions.

“Planet is honored to work closely with the State of California to understand how advanced satellite technology can enhance our ability to measure, monitor, and ultimately mitigate the impacts of climate change,” said Robbie Schingler, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Planet. “As a mission-driven commercial company, one of the greatest impacts Planet can make is turning technological breakthroughs and data into tools that benefit the planet while encouraging the growth of business.”

The state of California, through the California Air Resources Board, is developing and refining the technology needed to make this initiative possible with Planet and other stakeholders. Planet will manage the mission operations and collaborate with the State of California and others on funding this groundbreaking effort. 

This satellite will be capable of detecting the “point source” of climate pollutants, including super pollutants which have more potent heat-trapping effects, but remain in the atmosphere for a shorter time than carbon dioxide. Reducing these pollutants is reported to have an immediate and beneficial impact on the environment. 

“This new initiative is a critical part of Governor Brown’s bold commitment to harness leading edge technology in the fight against climate change,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “These satellite technologies are part of a new era of environmental innovation that is supercharging our ability to solve problems. 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.”