In what can prove to be a shot in arm in countering climate change, for the first time more than 60 countries agreed to engage their satellites, coordinate their methods and data to monitor human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.
The countries agreed upon a general framework to monitor the climate change last month in which the main force behind it was Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the French Space Agency (CNES).
Out of the 50 essential climate variables being monitored today, 26 – including rising sea level, sea ice extent and greenhouse gas concentrations in all layers of the atmosphere – can be measured only from space. The COP21 climate conference held in Paris last December acted as a wake-up call in this context, ISRO said.
Without satellites, the reality of global warming would not have been recognised and the subsequent historic agreement at the United Nations headquarters in New York on April 22 this year would not have been signed.
The key to effectively implementing the Paris Agreement lies in the ability to verify that nations are fulfilling their commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
In April last year, in a conference organised here, world’s space agencies decided to establish “an independent, international system” to centralise data from their Earth-observing satellites through the ‘New Delhi Declaration’ that officially came into effect on May 16.
The goal now will be to inter calibrate these satellite data so that they can be combined and compared over time. In other words, it is to make the transition to closely coordinated and easily accessible ‘big space data’, it said.
“It is overwhelming to see the unilateral support of all space agencies to use space inputs for monitoring climate change. Earth observation satellites provide a vital means of obtaining measurements of the climate system from a global perspective.
“ISRO is also engaging with CNES, JAXA and NASA for realising joint missions for global climate observation with advanced instruments,”said ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar.
CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall termed this as a “historic event that reaches far beyond the space sector” and is a “perfect example” of the kind of success that can only be achieved through international cooperation.
“With this consensus among space agencies from more than 60 nations, including the world’s leading space powers, the international space community and scientists now have the tools they need to put their talent, intelligence and optimism to work for the good of humankind and our planet,” Gall added.