Our team of researchers are world leaders in techniques used to estimate global terrestrial carbon fluxes from satellite data. Our work is helping governments around the world to meet the UN Paris Agreement goals on carbon stocktakes.
Methods to measure carbon emissions and sinks are enshrined in international agreements.
Countries are encouraged to develop independent sources of information to monitor the effectiveness of policy measures. For example, the UK and Switzerland include such independent data as part of their United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change submissions. The UK was the first major economy in the world to pass laws mandating verifiable net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Led by Professor Paul Palmer, our team of scientists have pioneered the interpretation of satellite measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) to infer the magnitude and distribution of their surface fluxes.
This work is helping to underpin the global response to the 2015 UN Paris Agreement to undertake global carbon stocktakes.
The far-reaching and global impact of our research supports the commitment by UK, European and many international governments to the goals of the UN Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions and limit global warming to "well below 2 degrees".
Our research has made key contributions to the reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC reports are the formal scientific input to the decision-making processes of international climate change negotiations and agreements and are the scientific foundation for the 2015 Paris Agreement.
You can find out key information by clicking on each heading below:
Copernicus is the European Union's Earth observation programme, managed by the European Commission. It is implemented in partnership with the Member States, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), EU Agencies and Mercator Océan.
CO2M is one of six high priority missions of the Copernicus programme. ESA was given the approval by its Member States (including the UK) to develop an operational CO2 mission (CO2M) and launch the first satellite under the European Copernicus programme.
The UK Government committed EUR18,000,000,000 to Copernicus in 2019 and increased its annual European Space Agency (ESA) subscription to GBP73,000,000 in 2019. These decisions were driven by a strong commitment by the UK Space Agency to monitor climate from space, including the future space-based CO2 monitoring system of the Copernicus program (CO2M) informed by knowledge from the work carried out by our researchers.
Advancing satellite observations
The cumulative scientific work led by our scientists has been influential in confirming the feasibility of CO2M and setting mission requirements. Our work has significantly advanced the use of satellite observations of CO2 and CH4 to develop knowledge of carbon cycles.
In national and international recognition of his research and expertise, Professor Palmer became the UK member of the European Commission CO2 Monitoring Task Force that helps to define the upcoming CO2 Copernicus programme.
The Task Force has begun developing an operational European measurement and verification system, including the CO2M satellite data, to ensure the system meets the requirements to infer actionable information on fossil fuel CO2 emissions to standards defined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
You can find out more about the Copernicus programme on their website.
Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS)
The cumulative body of our researchers work has directly contributed to long-term monitoring programmes such as the global co-ordination of the CEOS Atmospheric Composition Virtual Constellation Group (AC-VC).
CEOS is an international organization established around the multidisciplinary nature of space-based Earth observations and the value of coordinating international Earth observation efforts to benefit society. As of 2020, it has 34 national space agencies as regular members and other 25 associate members. CEOS is collaborating in developing an international satellite constellation architecture to monitor global greenhouse gases from space. This is achieved by combining data from existing satellites into creating a dedicated virtual satellite constellation.
You can find out more about the CEOS and the Atmospheric Composition Virtual Constellation Group on their website.
The UK’s Joint GEO/CEOS Office is hosted by National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), on behalf of the UK Earth Observation community.
It works as an interface to two major international initiatives:
- Group on Earth Observations (GEO)
- Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS)
The UK GEO/CEOS Office supported Professor Palmer's membership of the CEOS Carbon working group as the UK representative.
You can find out more about the UK’s Joint GEO/CEOS Office on the NCEO website.
Collaborative work between our researchers and Chinese researchers has recently shown the benefit of a multi-decadal Chinese investment in afforestation using in situ and satellite measurements of CO2.
Using various data, they showed that China's forests absorb 1.11 billion tonnes of carbon annually. This is nearly 50% of Chinese anthropogenic emissions during the same period, increasing confidence in the Chinese Government that the ongoing afforestation initiative will play a key role in achieving the net-zero emissions target by 2060 that was announced in 2020 by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for assessing climate change.
Every five to seven years, the IPCC produces Assessment Reports. These are the most comprehensive scientific reports about climate change produced worldwide. Between the Assessment Reports, the IPCC also publishes Special Reports which focus on a specific issue.
Our research has made key contributions to the reports for the IPCC.
Find out more:
|Starkest warning yet – what our research and the latest IPCC (AR6) report reveals
|What are we doing about climate change? Our impact on IPCC
|IPCC Special Reports
|Our work on the IPCC (AR5) report - the foundation for the Paris Agreement
Want to know more?
We've provided some useful links for you. To see the information, simply click on each heading below:
Study with us, and join one of the largest and most successful groupings of geographers and geoscientists in the UK as we address the most compelling issues of our time.
The following degrees may be of interest to you:
- Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management
- Geographical Information Science (GIS)
Check out more of our diverse undergraduate, postgraduate and research degrees and help us change the world.
Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate of the Anthropocene Research Group
Our School research group investigates key processes and drivers in the atmosphere and climate system and predicts present-day and future changes in climate, atmospheric composition and air quality.
Our research is carried out across our three interdisciplinary research institutes. There are also a number of research groups within each institute. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of our research, academic staff may belong to one or more groups across the institutes.
|Earth and Planetary Sciences Institute
|Global Change Institute
|Geography and the Lived Environment Institute
External centres and networks
Our research enables people from different institutes within the School, other departments within the University as well as external partners and organisations to work together to address local and global challenges.
We've provided more information on our work and the role of the IPCC:
We are leading the way towards developing and deploying carbon capture and underground storage (CCS) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Find out how we are helping to ensure that CCS technologies are applied not just in the UK but all over the world.