Mitigating climate change, the geospatial way

Mitigating climate change, the geospatial way

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The use of geospatial technology in mitigating climate change issues and challenges is gaining importance due to its information driven tools  which would probably lead to more thoughtful and informed decision making as desired by the policy makers at the national and international levels. A number of initiatives have been proposed under national missions on climate change in India, showcasing potential use of geospatial technology

Geospatial technology relates to the concept of information technologies incorporating a GIS-based framework enabling to scientifically monitor and understand the earth systems through its specialised tool and techniques. It is particularly useful in case of regular and repetitive monitoring. Geospatial techniques also offer the advantage of a synoptic view of a large area in shorter span. Geospatial techniques also have an upper edge in terms of reducing costs, time and resources required for carrying out spatial surveys through conventional modes. Therefore, geospatial information and technology offers a promising tool for collecting, analysing, interpreting and visualising spatial data for making the evidence based decisions.  

National missions on climate change under NAPCC

The use of geospatial technology in mitigating climate change issues and challenges is gaining importance due to its information driven tools  which would probably lead to more thoughtful and informed decision making as desired by the policy makers at the national and international levels.

Under National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) which was unveiled by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), eight national missions on climate change has been launched. Two of these national missions viz. National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem Climate Change (NMSHE) & National Mission Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change (NMSKCC)  are being coordinated by the Department of Science & Technology, Ministry of Science & Technology.

The broad objectives of NMSHE include:
•    Understanding of the complex processes affecting the Himalayan Eco system and evolving suitable management and policy measures for sustaining and safeguarding the Himalayan eco-system, creating and building capacities in different domains
•    Networking of knowledge institutions engaged in research and development of a coherent data base on Himalayan ecosystem
•    Detecting and decoupling natural and anthropogenic induced signals of global environmental changes in mountain ecosystems
•    Studying traditional knowledge systems for community participation in adaptation, mitigation and coping mechanisms inclusive of farming and traditional health care systems
•    Developing regional cooperation with neighboring countries, to generate a strong database through monitoring and analysis, to eventually creating a knowledge base for policy interventions.

NMSKCC has been launched with the broad objectives of mapping of the knowledge and data resources relevant to climate change and positioning of  a data sharing policy framework for building strategic knowledge among the various arms of the government, identification of knowledge gaps, and formation of global technology watch groups to help accomplish the task of technology selection and prioritisation, networking of knowledge institutions after investing critical mass of physical, intellectual and policy infrastructure resources, creation of new dedicated centres within the existing institutional framework, building international cooperation on S&T for climate change agenda through strategic alliances and assistance to the formulation of policies for a sustained developmental agenda.

A strong and strategic knowledge system is essential for identifying, formulating, planning and implementing policy driven actions while maintaining the necessary economic growth rate. The strategic knowledge system is expected to access as well as integrate data, information and assessments originating from a large number of inter-connected sources. The current modes of data generation and information and knowledge sharing in India do not enable the required integrated approach. Data sharing among various data sources is necessary for building strategic actions based on knowledge-led. This necessitates alignment of National Data Sharing Policy to facilitate data sharing among knowledge partners paths wherein Geo-spatial technologies play a very important role.

A number of Ministries and Departments of the Government of India have been supporting research related to climate change and response options The two missions would build on this existing base to launch new initiatives as appropriate in a mission-mode manner.

Relevance of geospatial technology in implementing national missions

An attempt has been made through this  article to provide details of various proposed initiatives under these  two national missions  on climate change showcasing potential  use of geospatial technology . The following are some of the key interventions as envisaged in the NMSHE which will benefit from use of geospatial technology:

•    Detection and decoupling natural and anthropogenic induced signals of global environmental changes in mountain ecosystems and predict future trends on potential impacts of climate change on the Himalayan ecosystem with a sound S&T backup is one of the stated objectives of NMSHE requiring use of geospatial techniques for both feeding in the information available and for representing the results for policy making purposes.
•    Evaluation of policy alternatives for regional development plans towards sustainable tourism development, water and other natural resource management for mountain ecosystems in the Himalayan region as envisaged in NMSHE would require development of zonation maps for the region utilizing the tools and techniques that are offered by remote sensing and GIS.
•    Enhancing monitoring of Himalayan ecosystem would require establishing a sound spatial database to act a baseline against which progress may be marked. Such a baseline would benefit from the use of spatial platforms.
•    Deploying technologies for hazard mitigation and disaster management, development of ideal human habitats and agriculture and forest sector innovations would to a great extent depend on the availability appropriate locations for carrying out various activities and technologies. This contribution of providing a spatial context to technologies may be provided through geospatial technologies.
•    NMSHE calls for continuous monitoring of the eco-system and data generation which may be carried out very effectively and efficiently by use of geospatial techniques.
•    Generation of bio-geo database and ecological modeling for Himalayas is an identified activity as part of the NMSHE. GIS provides a platform on which such a database may be plotted. This will also aid in carrying out location specific modeling exercises.
•    For the purpose of vulnerability as well from impacts of climate change GIS offers options for identifying locations which are most exposed to impacts. These models also help in identifying locations which will be most difficult to access in case of calamities.
•    Geospatial techniques are ideally suited for monitoring agriculture and forest health on regular basis. This helps in assessing the current status of health of the ecosystems and in the long term may be used as inputs for developing region specific models.

The following are some of the key interventions as envisaged in the NMSKCC which will benefit from use of geospatial technology:

•    Geospatial technology is ideally suited for providing a strategic knowledge system that should be able to access as well as integrate data, information and assessments originating from a large number of interconnected sources.
•    Global technology watch groups as articulated under NMSKCC should also consider geospatial technologies as means for selection of risk minimised technology selection for developmental choices.
•    One of the proposed activities under NMSKCC is to develop and provide knowledge and information products for use at specific and different levels and serve as an internal knowledge alert system while assisting the relevant groups with inputs for international negotiations. Geospatial technologies could act as a delivery mechanism for the same.
•    NMSKCC states that use of remote sensing and geospatial technology will be useful for bringing about a quantum jump in research on climate change through in the observations of key climate and biogeochemical variables; studies of basic phenomena and dynamical behavior, and a significantly scaled-up effort towards improving climate modeling. Remote sensing will also play an important role for measuring and characterising changes in ecosystems and land use and land cover change; and the feedbacks with climate change.
•    A wide range of knowledge-based decision support tools and analytical environments would be required to support policy bodies on responses through adaptation and mitigation actions. Geospatial platforms have the potential to being effectively used for developing such spatial decision support systems.
•    Various sub missions have been identified in the NMSKCC for ascertaining impacts of climate change. Some of these would benefit substantially through use of geospatial technology. Some of these are: monsoon and its variability, glaciers, sea-level rise and storm surges, extreme weather events, agriculture, water resources and forests.