Innovation That Matters

| Photo source CarbonSpace

Satellite technology estimates nature-based carbon storage 


The platform can be used to estimate the carbon removed by offset projects 

Spotted: Removing carbon from the atmosphere isn’t only about cutting-edge technologies like Direct Air Capture (DAC). Simpler, nature-based solutions – such as tree planting – also have an extremely important role to play. But one of the key challenges is accurately measuring how much carbon is locked away by nature-based projects.   

Companies often provide funding to tree planting and anti-deforestation projects by purchasing ‘carbon offsets’ – which they set against the emissions produced by their operations. However, the way these carbon savings are calculated has been a controversial topic, with recent research published by The Guardian newspaper questioning the effectiveness of verified credits.   

Dublin-based startup CarbonSpace argues that ‘nature-based carbon removal projects are an integral part of the global transition towards net-zero’, but that the reputation of these projects has been tarnished by a lack of transparency. Moreover, the company claims that current verification methods are not economically viable for smaller projects. To tackle these twin problems, CarbonSpace has developed a platform that leverages artificial intelligence and satellites to analyse the effectiveness of nature-based carbon removal projects – accurately and automatically.  

The company collects data using two types of satellites. The first group measures the density of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, while the second produces high-resolution satellite images. Both are supported by readings from ground stations. Data from the greenhouse gas observing satellites is fed into a model analysing the movement of greenhouse gases across the globe. Meanwhile, the satellite imagery is fed into a machine-learning algorithm that generates extremely high-resolution local maps.  

By combining these two data streams, the platform can reliably estimate the carbon removed by projects of any size. The company’s model uses historical data going back to the year 2000 to provide a baseline for its calculations.  

Springwise has spotted satellites being used to support sustainability in several ways. For example, one company is using satellite technology to estimate the carbon sequestered by coffee farmers, while another is using micro-satellites to track agricultural water usage.

Written By: Matthew Hempstead



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