Japan to launch eco-satellite

Japan's space agency plans to launch a satellite later this month to monitor greenhouse-gas levels around the world, Reuters reported, citing Japanese officials. The agency hopes that data from the satellite will assist global efforts to combat climate change.

The Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT) — due to be launched on January 21 — will allow scientists to calculate the density of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane from 56,000 locations on the earth’s surface, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said. Set to be in orbit for five years, the satellite will collect data once a month. Researchers expect to see preliminary data in April or May.


The satellite will expand the coverage of the meagre 282 land-based observation sites currently monitoring greenhouse gases, said Takashi Hamazaki, manager of the 35 billion yen (US$372.9 million) project. "To fight climate change,” he added, "we need to monitor the density of greenhouse gases in all regions around the world and how their levels change."

The planned launch comes at a time when Japan is under pressure to meet its 2008-2012 Kyoto Protocol target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, and also is trying to make its voice heard in international climate negotiations. "Whether the data can contribute to talks for a post-Kyoto deal is open to debate," said Toru Hashimoto, an environment ministry official. "But we hope the GOSAT data is included in the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, given that it will be a basis for global climate talks."

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