British scientists look to space for curbing global warming

January 27th, 2009 - 3:57 am ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 27 (Xinhua) Scientists will seek ways to reduce global warming with help from two new satellites that will measure carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere.Researchers at Edinburgh University are to study data from the instruments launched by the US space agency NASA and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The satellites - Orbiting Carbon Observatory and Greenhouse gases Observing Satellite - will for the first time give accounts of Earth’s carbon emissions region-by-region and also highlight areas of the planet that are absorbing the most CO2, said a statement released here by the university Monday.

They will provide fresh information on surface emissions and absorption of CO2 in remote regions such as the Amazon basin, Siberian taiga, Alaskan tundra and African forests.

Currently, scientists are able to look at CO2 emissions from very small areas, such as cities, or very large areas, such as oceans. This latest technique will make regional data available for the first time, potentially helping to quantify emission outputs of individual countries.

The satellite data will allow scientists to pinpoint more accurately the worst polluting regions on Earth. More importantly, they will identify those environmental conditions that encourage absorption of CO2, such as those found in forests and oceans. Recreating these conditions naturally or artificially elsewhere on Earth could help curb emissions, it said.

In the longer term, data from the satellites would hopefully contribute to the development of a better accounting system for carbon trading, the scheme in which countries are assigned an individual limit on how much CO2 they can emit, and may sell surplus capacity up to that limit.

Paul Palmer of Edinburgh University’s School of Geo-Sciences, who is leading the project to interpret the satellite data, said: “This development is unprecedented. We expect to learn where and how much CO2 is released to the atmosphere and how much is absorbed by forests and oceans, and how it moves around in the atmosphere. All of this will help us look for ways of combating climate change on Earth.”

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