In a major step to counter climate change, for the first time ever, over 60 countries have agreed to engage their satellites, coordinate their data and methods to monitor the greenhouse gas emissions. The main force behind this step was the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the French Space Agency (CNES). Last month, these 60 countries agreed upon a general framework to monitor the climate change.
50 essential climate variables are being monitored currently. Out of these 50, 26 including rising sea level, sea ice extent and greenhouse gas concentrations in all layers of the atmosphere - can be measured only from space. According to ISRO, what acted as a wake-up call in this regard was the COP21 climate conference held in Paris last December.
The reality of global warming would not have been known and the subsequent historic agreement at the United Nations headquarters in New York on April 22 this year would not have been signed without satellites. 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.
A conference was organised in New Delhi in April 2015, where the 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.
(With inputs from PTI)