Smile! You’re on Carbon Camera!

How satellites are making carbon and methane emissions public and what companies need to know

April 26, 2021

A group including the State of California, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Planet, an Earth-imaging company based in San Francisco, announced plans for a constellation of satellites capable of detecting carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emissions with an accuracy allowing facility-level emissions tracking.

This technology is only the latest example of a number of emissions monitoring tools that are, or will be, publicly available. Such emissions monitoring data may be used to support allegations of harm to the environment or public health; to verify sustainability disclosures related to emissions; or to identify companies, or their suppliers, who emit large quantities of greenhouse gases (GHGs). These data may be combined with other tools such as California’s CalEnviroScreen or the soon-to-be released climate and environmental justice screening tool being developed by the Biden Administration to support environmental justice and climate change actions.

If discrepancies are perceived between disclosures and actual emissions, these data could be used in allegations of greenwashing or deceptive marketing or in regulatory action by agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). However, the veracity of these new tools and the potential for allegations based on their data are currently uncertain and will require evaluation.

How Exponent Can Help

Exponent’s interdisciplinary sustainability team is composed of industry experts in environmental science, polymer science, data sciences, and chemical, electrochemical, mechanical, and civil engineering who regularly support the research, development, and assessment of breakthrough technologies that are enabling the current and future sustainability transformations of companies. Exponent scientists and engineers can evaluate the veracity of data to support clients in understanding their own emissions and the scientific merit of allegations of environmental damage, public health consequences, environmental justice concerns, greenwashing, and deceptive marketing.

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