Space 4 Environment: Satellite applications empowering the green transition

Climate change has become the biggest challenge of our time. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising and natural disasters occur more frequently and ferociously. Scientists and governments are looking for solutions to stop the deterioration of the environment. However, a high degree of uncertainty still lingers behind the various predictions and underlying research. This underscores the importance of precise data and analysis – both to deepen our knowledge of climate change and its effects on the natural environment and human activity, as well as to comprehend better the effects of human activity on natural resources and climate change itself. To this end, space has a vital and often unique role to play.[1]

The change in weather patterns mainly caused by greenhouse gases, triggers global warming which affects society and our environment irreversibly. Human activities have had an indisputable impact on the planet, leading up to large-scale deforestation, desertification, soil degradation, and a massive increase in emissions causing a depletion of the ozone layer. While the time for change is now, global emissions of greenhouse gases could grow by 37% in 2030. A warmer Earth leads to modifications in rainfall patterns and fresh water availability, rises in sea level, and many different effects on plants, wildlife and human activities.

Over the past few decades, space systems ranging from meteorological to telecommunication, navigation and earth observation satellites proved to be effective tools to measure and monitor climate change, and most importantly help mitigate its consequences reducing the uncertainties surrounding future projections on resources management at local, national, regional, and international level.

Although over half of the Essential Climate Variables (atmospheric, oceanic, terrestrial, etc.) identified by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) can be measured through satellite information, satellites are often considered as technology demonstrators, rather than critical components providing core data to optimise decision-making processes. There is still a missing link between the infrastructure which is already there, operative; the data which are gathered on a daily bases and those who should actually use those data to make well-informed and fact based decisions.

In this light we started the Space Opportunities for Climate Challenges webinar series with our partner GroundStationdotSpace. The initiative brought together research, government and industry experts to talk about their innovative solutions and funding opportunities related to climate. Throughout the series, various examples have been showcased proving that satellite solutions can contribute to the green transition:

  • Satellite remote sensing can rapidly reveal where to reverse the loss of biological diversity. Variables such as vegetation productivity or leaf cover can be measured across continents from space and can help forest managers to implement more sustainable ways of working.
  • Space is relevant for the management of maritime-related matters, as it is for smart mobility and urban planning. When it comes to energy, space can play a pivotal role in the decarbonisation of our economy.
  • The daily space data stream also provides insights about air and water quality, as well as irrigation systems, and even tourism.

Given the success of the series we decided to systematise the information into a publication now available on our website. It reflects the different sessions and for each chapter there is also a QR code linked to a more detailed overview and the recordings of the session.

With the GIS4Schools Project, Eurisy also aims to invest in the future. GIS4Schools will have a positive impact on the European school education system by developing a scalable and reusable training package focused on the use of GIS in climate action, which is currently absent or rarely adopted. Meanwhile, youngsters are demanding more measures for the benefit of our world. The Fridays for Future movement shows just how much these new generations are fighting to secure their future. GIS4Schools aims to give them the right tools, encouraging the use and exploitation of satellite data by students into climate action. Earth Observation satellites provide scientists and researchers huge amounts of data, aimed at developing solutions or policies for national governments or local actors to act against climate change. Within the GIS4Schools Project, students will be enabled to understand and tackle the environmental and societal challenges, even at local level. Students will learn the necessary digital tools to analyse various parameters related to the increase in surface temperature, desertification, and forest fires.

In 2015, Eurisy supported POLSA with a study on the operational uses of satellite-based services by Polish public administration offices across the country. Following the report, based on the information collected through surveys and feedback provided by 45 Polish public administrations, a user forum took place in Warsaw. To favour the uptake of satellite-based services within the public sector in Poland, one of the most important outcomes was the training of staff. Sat4Envi is an operating system for gathering, sharing and promotion of digital satellite information about the environment. This national initiative aims to provide civil servants with better tools to manage public services, promoting the use of satellite data in various environmental fields.

Furthermore, Eurisy aims to contribute to climate action on different levels. In the Related Activities section – the orange box in the top right corner of this page – you can find out more about our activities concerning the United Nations, e-shape, GEO, Euphresco, etc.

[1] Reference document OECD Space Forum report