As climate change increasingly disrupts complicated earth systems in unprecedented ways, one company hopes to use high-resolution satellite imaging to better understand how the planet is changing.
“We are seeing more climatic events of extreme weather, and that’s driving challenges around the world such as the collapsing of our coral systems and so on,” Will Marshall, the CEO and co-founder of Planet, a satellite data company, told Yahoo Finance Live (video above).
“But then, even worse than that, we have seen an absolute decimation of ecology on the planet. 70% of fish in freshwater rivers and lakes, 82% of mammals — all of these numbers gone in the last 40 years. So we’ve decimated the populations of animal species of all kinds around the planet.”
However, despite this bleak outlook, Marshall added that there is a glimmer of hope: “What we are also seeing is that nature bounces back when given the chance. And so, if you protect an area of land, nature bounces quickly back. If you protect an area of the oceans, nature quickly bounces back.”
The San Francisco-based company, which was founded in 2010, has been using its 200 satellites to help groups collect data on everything from forestry and agriculture to defense operations and developments in the Russia-Ukraine war. The company is also helping to launch a cluster of satellites that will pinpoint where CO2 and methane super polluters are.
Although humans’ impact on biodiversity is looking direr every year — especially from the view from space — Marshall argued that the solutions to climate change are fairly straightforward.
“We need to stop the deforestation, we need to protect those marine protected areas, we need to transition to sustainable agriculture, and so on,” Marshall said. “I’m inspired by the wicked tools that we have to bring to bear on the challenges, despite the… pretty sad starting point that we have positioned ourselves in.”
‘Helping people make real decisions’
With the growing challenge of climate change hanging overhead, Planet (PL) sees a huge opportunity in serving insurers and financial markets. Marshall predicted the company will double or triple its revenue growth rate year after year.
The demand for better data comes as more companies issue climate targets and governments look to strengthen climate disclosure regulations. Planet hopes to step in and provide information to help these enterprises to assess their strategies.
Recently, the company partnered with Moody’s Analytics to help investors better grasp environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks.
“We’re really excited about that because… a company has to measure its ESG targets, and we are partnering with Moody’s to try to better use satellite data to do global reporting standards, understand global asset risk, and develop products that enable the whole financial sector to transition to a sustainable one,” Marshall said.
Planet has a slew of other partnerships as well. NASA is “tracking key kind of variables and helping us as a whole society to respond to climatic events more directly,” Marshall said. “We are working with FEMA now to help them have data to ensure that they do rapid response to disasters. We are working with Bayer environmental sciences to enable ranchers to assess their pastures from invasive species that are becoming more common with climate change.”
“These are real things,” he added. “They are helping people make real decisions.”
In order to deliver for these partners, Planet is beefing up its fleet of satellites with 32 new Pelican satellites that will provide 30-centimeter resolution imagery and faster download times. The idea is to not only monitor natural phenomena changing over the course of years but to respond quickly when climate-related disasters strike.
“With climate, we’re seeing more rapid needs for our data from things like disaster responses after floods and fires and earthquakes,” Marshall explained. “We need quick data. So this will be able to be very fast, you know, really rapid response — at times just minutes after delivery, and then getting that data in the hands of the users in the most sophisticated way.”
Grace is an assistant editor for Yahoo Finance.