A new paper led by the University of Bristol identifies Earth observation satellites as critical tools to monitor the causes and effects of climate change.
The paper outlines the opportunities and areas for improvement with Earth observation ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), which will be hosted in Glasgow, UK, in November.
The paper, Space-based Earth Observations for Climate Security, published in association with the COP26 Universities Network, highlights that more education and training is needed to maximize the potential of Earth observation satellites and to help the world meet challenging climate targets.
According to the paper, the data satellites capture could help hold nations to account in meeting goals to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce global warming. The technology is also important for informing emergency services of environmental disasters, such as floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions and wildfires.
Lead author of the paper Jonathan Bamber, professor of physical geography at the University of Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences and its Cabot Institute for the Environment, said, “Earth observation satellites are our eyes on the planet. Without them we would be virtually blind to the magnitude and timing of climate change and to human interference with the fragile ecosystems that we all depend on.”
The paper identifies three key focus areas to ensure Earth observation is fit for purpose and optimized. They are: capacity building in Earth observation technology, methodologies and skills; international cooperation and coordination between the space agencies, national funding bodies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other entities; and trans-national funding to fund cooperation at an international level.
Co-lead author Paul Bates FRS, professor of hydrology at the University of Bristol and associate director of the Cabot Institute for the Environment, who is leading the university’s COP26 activities, said, “Free-to-use satellite data can transform the ability of countries around the world to manage the threat of climate change, but only if countries like the UK share their expertise and technology.”