Spaceborne monitoring of carbon emissions

While we know that CO2 emissions are continuing to rise, where the majority of global CO2 atmospheric concentration comes from is still debated. Two opposing viewpoints have arisen with some studies showing that urban areas are responsible for 70% of CO2 emittance, and others showing no clear link between urbanization and CO2 atmospheric concentration (Labzovskii et al., 2019). This opposition mostly exists because there is no global system for tracking fossil fuel CO2 emissions (FFCO2) in cities, and variance between self-reported CO2 inventory reports between cities is sometimes up to 100% (Labzovskii et al., 2019). As a solution, the study by Labzovskii et al. (2019) tests the suitability for remote sensing techniques using imagery from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), which offers the finest spatial resolution – perfect for city-scale research – for estimating the highest CO2 emitting areas. The first four years of imagery from OCO-2 were used to collect CO2 urban anomalies, or the highest emitting neighbourhoods, from large cities and compare them at a global scale. Most anomalies emerged in the Northern Hemisphere in East Asia, Europe, North America, and South Asia. Five of the six strongest anomalies were found in the megacities of Los Angeles, Tehran, Rhine-Main Metropolitan Area, Pearl River Delta, and Seoul, while Houston was the only non-megacity (Labzovskii et al., 2019). While remote sensing techniques used on the OCO-2 imagery was found to be very suitable for estimating global CO2 atmospheric concentration, it is hard to create real action to improve pollution concentrations. Most of the anomaly cities are located in major manufacturing areas, recycling centers, extremely dense cities and sprawled cities, all of which would require changing incredibly embedded economic, social, and geographic systems. However, this study does identify CO2 hotspots and reaffirms that urban centers are the biggest contributors to CO2 atmospheric concentration, which ultimately is a step in the right direction.

Labzovskii, L.D., Jeong, S.J. and Parazoo, N.C., 2019. Working towards confident spaceborne monitoring of carbon emissions from cities using Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2.


Climate Change, Ecological Modelling, Lifestyle, Monitoring, Pollution, Visual Technologies