Space mission to monitor carbon dioxide will be led by a team of Edinburgh experts

Edinburgh scientists will lead new British and French space mission to monitor carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The UK Space Agency has provided new funding for the joint project, called MicroCarb, which see the launch of the first European satellite dedicated to measuring atmospheric CO2 from all around the world – the main greenhouse gas caused by human activity and responsible for climate change.

National Centre for Earth Observation experts at the universities of Edinburgh and Leicester will translate atmospheric CO2 observation into maps that show carbon sources and sinks, while the National Physical Laboratory, in Teddington, will use the data to understand how instrument and observation aspects contribute to the data use.

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Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, and Laurence Monnoyer-Smith, Director of Sustainable Development of CNES signing the implementation arrangement for MicroCarb at COP26
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Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, and Laurence Monnoyer-Smith, director of Sustainable Development of the French space agency, CNES, signed an implementation arrangement for the MicroCarb mission at COP26 in Glasgow today. The UK will provide a further £3.9 million for the mission, due to launch in early 2023.

MicroCarb’s data will contribute to global efforts to measure how much carbon is being emitted by natural processes and how much by human activities. This information will help inform decisions on tackling climate change.

Dr Paul Bate, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “Over half of the critical measurements on climate change rely on satellite data. Having more accurate knowledge of how much carbon the world’s forests and oceans absorb will give policymakers the reliable information they need to take decisions on tackling climate change.“This exciting partnership with CNES showcases the skills of the UK space sector in designing and building complex space instruments and cutting-edge satellites.”

The new funding takes the UK’s contribution to £13.9 million since the two agencies agreed to work on the mission, which will monitor Earth’s atmospheric CO2 from space with extreme precision and detect the changes associated with surface emissions and uptake across the world from our cities, forests and oceans.

Data from MicroCarb will help monitor international progress in meeting the Paris Agreement climate target of limiting global surface warming to well below 2ºC of pre-industrial temperatures.

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