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Climate change is an urgent global issue with far-reaching impacts on our environment, health, and economy. The decreasing costs of deploying space technology are ushering in a new era of climate tech capabilities, creating a promising environment for start-ups and investment, says Imraan Salojee of the Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS), an advocate for the application of space-related technology to address climate change across Africa.

Saloojee says space-related technology presents a significant opportunity for businesses to make a meaningful contribution towards combating climate change in Africa, where the impacts are increasingly being felt. “The potential that space-based technologies hold to combat climate change is immense. From providing accurate weather intelligence to verifying the effectiveness of carbon offset projects, these technologies are an untapped resource that could help mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.”

Space-based technologies, particularly satellites, provide us with a unique perspective to monitor and understand the Earth’s changing climate, Saloojee explains. Coupled with advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), these technologies offer valuable insights into various aspects of climate change, including temperature shifts, sea-level rise, deforestation, and changes in biodiversity.

The surge in investment in the space sector is seeing the number of satellites set for deployment skyrocket from 3,300 today to an estimated 65,000 over the next decade. A significant portion of these satellites are purposed for climate-related applications, allowing for the rapid and accurate collection of data over vast areas.

Saloojee highlights that the applications of these technologies are diverse and numerous, presenting key areas for innovation and development. “Opportunities abound in areas such as disaster risk management; weather and hazard forecasting; forest fire systems; greenhouse gas emissions monitoring and carbon accounting; as well as monitoring and preventing desertification, deforestation and biodiversity loss,” he says.

One of the most palpable manifestations of climate change is the rise in extreme weather events. Over the past 40 years, these events have tripled, a trend that shows no signs of abating. In response, a growing number of space tech satellite companies are stepping up to offer more detailed information and access to governments, particularly in developing countries that lack the necessary radar infrastructure to warn their populations of severe weather conditions, according to Saloojee.

For instance, Climavision uses AI and advanced radar technology to provide precise weather intelligence. This data can be used for early warning systems, helping communities better prepare for extreme weather events linked to climate change. Companies such as, Cervest, and ICEYE are pioneering satellite-based solutions that can aid in understanding, predicting, and preparing for extreme weather events.

In the pursuit of achieving net-zero emissions, companies are harnessing revolutionary space tech capabilities. For the first time, the potential to monitor everything from energy wastage due to poorly insulated buildings to the amount of energy a power station is generating in near real-time is being unlocked. For example, Pachama utilizes AI and remote sensing technology to verify the effectiveness of forest carbon projects, providing companies with a reliable method to offset their carbon emissions.

With space-based data becoming more precise and costs decreasing, the potential of space tech in combating a wide variety of climate-related challenges is significantly expanding, says Saloojee. “Space technology is proving to be a vital tool in addressing climate change issues in Africa, and provides a powerful opportunity for businesses across the continent to innovate, grow and contribute.”