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This animation shows the accumulation of data from NASA’s OCO-3 instrument used to create a map of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations that covers about 50 square miles (80 square kilometers) of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The highest concentrations are in yellow. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In Brief:

Such detailed maps could help policymakers choose the most effective ways of cutting carbon emissions.

Using data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3) instrument on the International Space Station, researchers have released one of the most accurate maps ever made from space of the human influence on carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The map shows tiny variations in airborne CO2 from one mile of the giant L.A. Basin to the next.

The highest CO2 readings, in yellow on the map, are on the west side of downtown L.A. – a densely populated area with congested freeways and CO2-emitting industries. Yellow indicates atmospheric CO2 elevated by five or more molecules out of every million molecules of air, or five parts per million. That’s equivalent to the amount that global atmospheric CO2 is rising globally on average every two years.

The animation shows five adjoining swaths of data the OCO-3 instrument collected over the metropolitan area to create a map of CO2 concentrations that covers about 50 square miles (80 square kilometers). Each pixel is about 1.3 miles (2.2 kilometers); the color indicates how much higher the concentration of CO2 is in that spot than in clean desert air north of the city (measured at NASA’s Armstrong Research Center, upper right).

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Most of the increasing CO2 in the global atmosphere comes from humans burning fossil fuels for energy, and 70% of that comes from cities. Los Angeles has set goals for cutting its carbon emissions. This type of data can help decisionmakers choose the most effective policies to reach those goals and to measure the effectiveness of new regulations. Data from ground level provides critical local measurements, but satellite data is equally necessary because it covers a wider area and also measures CO2 throughout the entire depth of the atmosphere.

The International Space Station, which hosts the OCO-3 instrument, circles Earth between 52 degrees north and 52 degrees south latitudes – about the latitudes of London and Patagonia. Almost all cities on Earth come within its view on average once every three days. The OCO-3 team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California schedules measurements at up to 40 locations a day. Most of these targets are high-CO2-emitting cities.

The instrument consists of a telescope and three spectrometers, a kind of instrument that analyzes wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum of sunlight to find the spectral “fingerprint” of carbon dioxide. The telescope swivels rapidly to collect as many adjoining swaths of data as possible over a targeted location within two minutes. OCO-3 usually collects a single swath of data as it orbits, like its predecessor the OCO-2 mission (which is still operating), but it’s designed to create snapshot maps like this one to give researchers a more complete picture of emissions from cities and other areas of interest.

The maps were published this week in a paper in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment.

News Media Contacts

Jane J. Lee / Ian J. O’Neill
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
jane.j.lee@jpl.nasa.gov / ian.j.oneill@jpl.nasa.gov

Out of here coal! This land already has an owner!

No Coal - climate emergency


On this World Environment Day, June 5th, São Sepé has become only the second city in Brazil, and the first in southern Brazil, to recognize the global climate emergency.

Regulated through decree by Mayor João Luiz Vargas (of the PDT party), the city’s declaration establishes the city’s commitment to urgently help limit both global warming and the climate crisis. Climate change is already causing deaths, forced mass migrations, and huge economic losses across the planet.

With the decree passed, raising investments in renewable energy becomes a priority for São Sepé. A solar energy plant is already under construction and the city government identifies potential for investments in the wind sector as well.

The declaration was prepared with support from 350.org, an international environmental campaign organization addressing the climate crisis. It was also supported by the São Sepé Sustainability Group, reinforcing the municipal government’s commitment to diversify employment and income for the roughly 25,000 city inhabitants. The city will begin by targeting sectors such as tourism, logistics, and low-carbon agriculture.

little girl holding plaque saying no to coal

“Out of here, coal! This land already has an owner!”, said São Sepé citizens in local campaign


São Sepé’s plans run counter to those in other regions of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where companies in the coal supply chain are trying to expand their activities, in some cases with the encouragement of municipal and state governments. 

In Greater Porto Alegre, mining company Copelmi is trying to open one of the largest open-pit coal mines in the country, Mina Guaíba, despite strong opposition from local communities. In the vicinity of Bagé, a subsidiary of the same company is carrying out plans to create a coal-fired thermoelectric power plant.   

“We are putting forward a new trajectory for the state, in line with the global energy transition movement. It is a matter of awareness and survival, for if we do not start to adapt and seek opportunities in the transition economy, we risk becoming an obsolete and jobless state,” says Mayor João Luiz Vargas.

For 350.org, São Sepé’s initiative is a call to action for other municipal and state governments to promote concrete measures to contribute to the climate and social crises.

“The pandemic and global warming are forcing public officials around the world to implement new solutions. Rather than continuing dependency on sectors destined to end, such as oil, gas and coal, smart governments are encouraging activities that lead to a fair and inclusive recovery, in areas such as renewable energy and quality public services”, says Renan Andrade, campaigns coordinator at 350.org in Rio Grande do Sul.

In Brazil, the city of Recife was the only municipal government to recognize the climate emergency and to include its declaration in the world list of initiatives compiled by the  International Climate Emergency Forum.  Other municipalities have already announced that they are assessing similar measures, but have not yet registered an official declaration in the international database. 

Globally, 1,940 governments across all levels in 34 countries have officially recognized the climate crisis, including authorities in France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Argentina, Canada, and Japan. New York, Chicago, Paris, London, Rome, Milan, Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Tokyo, Sydney and Bogotá are amongst the cities that joined. More than 825 million people live in places where their government has recognized the climate emergency.

We clap hands to this fierce and avant-garde city sending a clear message to the Coal lobby:

This land already has an owner



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