Can ‘space tech’ cut 1/6 of carbon emissions?

A new report outlines the major impact satellites have already had on attempts to cut pollution and slow climate change and highlights how more sectors could see significant environmental improvements by adopting the technology. 

While renewed interest – and investment – in missions to the Moon and Mars may have angered some environmentalists, who see projects such as SpaceX as unnecessary distractions taking much needed money that could be used for climate-related research and development, research published by Inmarsat suggests we may be undervaluing the importance of so-called ‘space tech’.

satellite flying on space

The company, which develops and manufactures satellites and therefore has a vested interest in the market’s success,  makes a compelling case in its report Can Space Help Save The Planet. Citing huge carbon savings made possible by the use of these technologies to improve and streamline areas such as logistics, and energy and fuel consumption, it points to a recent Globant study that suggested 700,000,000tonnes of CO2 is currently being saved in transport sectors thanks to the use of advanced satellite communications.

Meanwhile, agriculture is reducing its annual footprint by around 300,000,000tonnes annually. According to projections, if the three biggest emissions contributors – travel, agriculture/forestry/land use, and energy systems – took full advantage of what satellite technology can offer, some 1.8gigatonnes of CO2 could be saved each year. That’s the equivalent 100 times the combined carbon all traffic passing through London each year, and the same as cutting all comparable emissions from every UK household for 25 years. 

‘Earlier this year, Inmarsat began an ambitious research programme to understand the impact of space on the world around us. The ‘What on Earth is the value of space?’ research initiative began with the largest ever study of global attitudes towards space – covering 20,000 people across 11 countries. The findings were instructive in numerous ways. Perhaps the most illuminating discovery, however, was that the key hope for 41% of the public was that space will help to mitigate climate change,’ Rajeev Suri, Inmarsat CEO, wrote in the report’s introduction. 

There is an abundance of potential for satellite communications to help decarbonise Earth. Yet it does not appear in the decarbonisation conversation as often as it perhaps should. With the information contained in this report, I hope that as an industry, we can start to find our place, our contribution, to the journey towards 2050 Net Zero’ he continued. ‘Of course, satellite technology cannot solve climate change alone, but this report proves it should form a key pillar of any Net Zero strategy. I believe this should be required reading for anyone involved in shaping global sustainability policies.’ 

You can read the full report here. In addition to supporting direct emissions savings, in turn helping combat symptoms of the climate emergency like global warming and improving air quality, satellites are also invaluable in assessing the impact of policy changes and environmental initiatives. Just last week Air Quality News reported on new imagery from NASA proves efforts to reduce sulphur content in ship fuel is having a tangible impact on associated pollution. 

Image: NASA


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top