UN presents satellite system to detect methane

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This handout satellite image, courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech, shows a plume of methane at least 3 miles (4.8 km) long detected by the Earth’s surface mineral dust source investigation mission. NASA – Copyright AFP NICOLAS ASFOURI, Nicholas Kamm

The UN on Friday unveiled a satellite-based system to detect methane emissions as part of efforts to reduce the main contributor to global warming.

The Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) was announced by the United Nations Environment Program during the COP27 climate summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Emitted from leaks at fossil fuel facilities as well as other human sources such as ranching and landfills, methane is responsible for about 30 percent of the global rise in temperatures to date.

Dozens of countries pledged last year to act to reduce pollution of the powerful greenhouse gas.

MARS will use data from global mapping satellites to detect methane “hot spots” and large plumes of gas, and identify their source, the United Nations Environment Program said in a statement.

UNEP would then notify governments and companies of the emissions “so that the responsible entity can take appropriate action.”

“Reducing methane emissions can make a big, fast difference, as this gas leaves the atmosphere much faster than carbon dioxide,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

US climate envoy John Kerry said cutting methane was the “quickest opportunity” to help the world reach the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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