With the launch of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, earlier this month, we’ll be getting an unprecedented wealth of information about carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere.

The spacecraft, which was launched aboard the Delta II rocket, will provide detailed readings of CO2 concentrations over multiple seasons, and at a global scale. Until now, ground stations have monitored CO2 in a number of limited, fixed positions, so this will be a major step forward in our understanding of the causes of climate change.

This spacecraft’s mission will provide much needed insight into how the planet’s atmosphere is changing as we continue to burn fossil fuels, increasing the levels of CO2 in the air. OCO-2’s instruments are so precise they can count the number of carbon dioxide molecules in the different layers of the atmosphere. The data will help scientists make more accurate predictions about things like global temperature increase.

It’s clear manmade carbon dioxide emissions are responsible for global climate change. But it can only help to have more, and more accurate data on what’s currently happening, and what we can expect to happen in the future.  Scientists are a cautious lot, and the general public often seems to understand their unwillingness to commit to making hard and fast predictions about climate change as proof that scientists are unsure if it’s happening.

I’m hoping the OCO-2 can be one more powerful weapon in the arsenal for the fight, both for knowledge and understanding of climate change, and for the public acceptance of our collective responsibility to do something about it.