From Lofty Perch, CLAIRE Will Bring Climate Pollution Down to Earth


This coming April, a rocket will lift off from an island off the east coast of India and launch CLAIRE–a powerful new tool in the global effort to combat carbon pollution.

The Canadian-built satellite isn’t large–it’s about the size of a small microwave oven. But the craft could pack a big punch in the coming years by helping companies, governments, NGOs and others determine precisely where climate pollution is coming from, and in what quantities.

“We founded our whole business on the concept that if there is value in a tonne of carbon, then the producers are going to be motivated to reduce their emissions,” says Stephane Germain, president of Montreal-based

CLAIRE is built around a half-million-pixel infrared digital camera that can “see” the portion of the spectrum where otherwise-invisible plumes of carbon dioxide and methane lurk. On a clear day, the bird will look down onto any point on earth and, by measuring the light absorbed in each pixel, determine the quantity of those greenhouse gases being emitted to the atmosphere.

In the coming years, CLAIRE will scope out well fields, cement factories, landfills, natural gas plants, coal-fired power stations, tailings ponds and any other industrial facility, anywhere on the face of the earth.

It will fly in a north-south loop, every 90 minutes, in a sun-synchronous orbit. Over a 24-hour period, it will scope out the entire planet.

Technologies do currently exist to precisely measure emissions from fixed points, such as power-station smokestacks. But while such instruments are required in Canada and the United States, they are not common in developing nations. Further, it can be very difficult to accurately measure emissions from larger and more remote sites, such as vast tailings ponds, landfills, or remote off-grid gas-processing plants, like those in northeastern British Columbia.

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