World-Changing Opportunity for California

$100 Million for Methane Satellites

Governor Newsom’s May Revise budget proposal includes this item:

Methane Satellites—$100 million Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund on a one-time basis to expand the number of satellites launched for methane observations, which would provide weekly measurement of large methane emissions in the state and enhance enforcement capabilities. This data will allow California to identify the source of these emissions, work with programs to hold emitters accountable for violations, and further reduce the amount of short-lived climate pollutants in the atmosphere.

The California Air Resources Board released the draft 2022 Scoping Plan last week, setting forth a blueprint for how California, the world’s fifth largest economy, can achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.  Methane emissions reduction is a central strategy for the blueprint:

Human sources of methane emissions are estimated to be responsible for up to 25 percent of current warming. ~12 years 352 Fortunately, methane’s short atmospheric lifetime of 353 means that emissions reductions will rapidly reduce concentrations in the atmosphere, slowing the pace of temperature rise in this decade. Further, a substantial portion of the targeted reductions can be achieved at low cost and will provide significant human health benefits. At page 180.

I and others have blogged previously about the importance of methane and reducing methane emissions.  Suffice it to say, according to The Global Methane Assessment from the United Nations Environment Programme and  the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, cutting methane emissions is the fastest  strategy for the world to avoid crashing through the 1.5 °C guardrail, and pursuing all  methane mitigation measures this decade is the only known way to avoid nearly 0.3 °C of  warming by the 2040s and slow warming by 30%.

Methane emissions can now be identified by satellite.  For example, California is part of Carbon Mapper, a non-profit public-private initiative, which includes Planet, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the State of California, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, RMI, and philanthropic sponsors.  Satellites will dramatically change the effort around reducing methane emissions by giving California and other jurisdictions specific and targeted information.  We are almost there, but the effort desperately needs the additional funding identified in Governor Newsom’s budget, both to finalize the satellite coverage and, most importantly, to provide the resources needed to receive, store, interpret and share the data.  This will be world-changing.

California has made no secret of its view that climate change is an existential threat necessitating emergency, urgent response.  The State can act – and lead – on that view right now.  The California Legislature has the chance to live up to the challenge as it finalizes the budget.  Will it include this essential budget item?

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About Ken

Ken is the director of Project Climate at UC Berkeley's Center for Law, Energy, & Environment. He spent eight years as a Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Jerry Brow…

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