Japan is set to launch the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT) in two weeks, a 35 billion yen ($372.9 million) effort to measure emissions from around the world.
The satellite will collect data to allow scientists to figure out the density of carbon dioxide and methane on the Earth's surface. Researchers believe the two greenhouse gases are key contributors to global warming.
The effort underscores the importance of having accurate emissions data, especially when more countries are passing policies to curb emissions (see U.N. Climate Talks Pose Big Impact on Greentech). Buying and selling emission allowances, a controversial method to push polluters to emit less, have become a billion-dollar global industry.
The European Union requires heavily industrial polluters to emit under limits or buy credits from those who emit less than allowed. The United States doesn't have a national program, although President-elect Barack Obama has said he wants to set up one (see Analysts Call Obama Election A Win for Greentech).
While scientists have been collecting emissions data for years, they have done so in limited parts of the world. They can calculate emissions at power plants, for example, but they don't have emissions data from many developing countries and uninhabited areas in the world.
Technology improvements are allowing researchers to collect more data and measure emissions more precisely. New data should help researchers to make better predictions about climate change.
The United States and with the European Union have their own projects to send emissions-monitoring satellites into orbit.
NASA plans to launch a $270 million carbon dioxide-tracking satellite this year. The satellite, called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, would measure carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (see Counting Carbon From Space).
Japan's GOSAT will monitor the two greenhouse gases at 56,000 locations around the world. It is scheduled to orbit for five years. Researchers expect to start getting data from GOSAT in April or May.
The project could help Japan's own fight to curb emissions. The country is having trouble meeting its emissions reduction goals, and has announced a series of plans over the past year to do better (see Japan Renews Drive to Tap Geothermal and Japan Proposes $4B to Cut Emissions).
The government is looking at how to create the so-called green jobs while reducing its emissions, an approach also embraced by Obama and a slew of political leaders in other countries.
In his first national radio address last weekend, Obama said he wants to "double renewable energy production" and creating three million new jobs (see Green Light post). He said Wednesday that he wants to renovate federal buildings to make them more energy efficient.
Green jobs generally refer to employment opportunities in generating renewable energy and making products and services that cut electricity and fuel consumption. How will Obama create those jobs remains to be seen. He's still drafting an economic stimulus package, which would have to be well received by Congress.