California, Planet Labs Inc. Launch Groundbreaking Initiative to Develop Satellite-Based Technologies, Track and Attack Climate Pollutants

SAN FRANCISCO – In closing remarks at the Global Climate Action Summit, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that the State of California is teaming up with San Francisco-based Earth imaging company Planet Labs (Planet) to develop and eventually launch a satellite that will track climate change-causing pollutants with unprecedented precision and help the world dramatically reduce these destructive emissions.

“With science still under attack and the climate threat growing, we’re launching our own damn satellite,” said Governor Brown. “This groundbreaking initiative will help governments, businesses and landowners pinpoint – and stop – destructive emissions with unprecedented precision, on a scale that’s never been done before.”
Planet, which was founded by ex-NASA scientists in 2010, operates the world’s largest constellation of satellites in history.

In the last two years, Planet has launched over 150 Earth-imaging satellites, manufactured in San Francisco, helping customers in agriculture, government, mapping, NGOs and in other markets to make better decisions. Its robust aerospace and data processing infrastructure, innovative technology and engineering and scientific expertise will be utilized to develop and operate the new satellite, with the possibility of launching additional satellites in the future as part of this initiative.

“Planet is honored to work closely with the State of California to understand how advanced satellite technology can enhance our ability to measure, monitor, and ultimately mitigate the impacts of climate change,” said Robbie Schingler, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Planet.

“As a mission-driven commercial company, one of the greatest impacts Planet can make is turning technological breakthroughs and data into tools that benefit the planet while encouraging the growth of business.”

The State of California, through the California Air Resources Board, is developing and refining the technology needed to make this initiative possible with Planet and other stakeholders. Planet will manage the mission operations and collaborate with the State of California and others on funding this groundbreaking effort.

This satellite will be capable of detecting the “point source” of climate pollutants, including super pollutants which have more potent heat-trapping effects, but remain in the atmosphere for a shorter time than carbon dioxide. Reducing these pollutants can have an immediate and beneficial impact.

The State of California and Planet are committed to making environmentally-related satellite data available to the public and will work in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) — and others with complementary projects — to establish a new Climate Data Partnership. EDF is uniquely positioned as a partner having announced its own distinct and complementary project, MethaneSAT, in April.

The Climate Data Partnership will serve as a common platform for reporting data from these, and other, satellite systems studying climate variables and the earth’s atmosphere. This data sharing will enable governments, businesses, landowners and others to pursue more targeted mitigation measures worldwide. These efforts are part of a strategy that has the potential to deliver global emission reductions equivalent to 1,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually — or removing 200 million vehicles from roads every year.

“This new initiative is a critical part of Governor Brown’s bold commitment to harness leading edge technology in the fight against climate change,” said EDF President Fred Krupp. “These satellite technologies are part of a new era of environmental innovation that is supercharging our ability to solve problems. They won’t cut emissions by themselves, but they will make invisible pollution visible and generate the transparent, actionable, data we need to protect our health, our environment and our economies.” Initial funding of this project has been provided by Dee and Richard Lawrence and OIF, as well as The Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust.

“If what gets measured, gets managed, part of the problem is that we cannot attribute specific climate pollutants to specific sources,” said Richard Lawrence of OIF and Jeremy Grantham, Trustee of The Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust. “We are proud to have played a role to use philanthropy as a tool to partner with government and the private sector to give the world real time greenhouse gas emissions at the very low cost that only satellites can provide.”

Additional scientific, business and philanthropic partners are expected to join this initiative in the months ahead and the State of California and Planet will serve as the conveners of all parties.

This announcement comes nearly two years after Governor Brown told thousands of scientists gathered at the Moscone Center – the same venue hosting the Global Climate Action Summit – that “California will launch its own damn satellite” and will continue pursuing “honest, independent science,” following reports of potential cuts to federal satellite and climate monitoring programs.

“The time has never been more urgent or your work never more important,” said Governor Brown in that 2016 speech at the American Geophysical Union’s annual fall meeting. “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the universities, we have the national labs and we have the political clout and sophistication for the battle – and we will persevere. Have no doubt about that.”