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For the sake of Earth- International Collaboration

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International Collaboration for Earth and Climate is the need! Image Credits: jisc.ac.uk

Natural hazards are hastily increasing in the world today. Recent earthquake in Ecuador and Japan divested many lives. Diminishing glaciers and sea ice is an early indicator of global warming. Floods, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes and tornadoes are other serious global concerns. In past 11 years, earth has broken records of temperature rise by 1 degree Celsius. Year 2015-16 have been marked hottest years till date breaking all past records. INDCs studies suggest that the Earth is still projected to warm by 2.7-3.7 degree Celsius by 2100. 

COP21 organized last year in Paris stressed on Climate issues. Almost 190 nations gathered together to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aiming to reduce green house gas emission. For the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, The Paris Climate Conference aimed to achieve a legal binding and universal agreement on climate. The COP21 agreement clearly called for collaboration and cooperation among various nations to fight the climate change.

It is but natural now that the national space agencies are also not only talking about collaboration but also walking the talk. Heads of 11 space agencies across the world came together in New Delhi in early April to discuss this pressing issue. The agreement, to be known as Delhi Declaration, is an effort by all these agencies to collaborate in the space of remote sensing to urgently tackle the spectre of global warming.

At 10th SPIE Asia-Pacific Remote-sensing symposium, Organized by ISRO in New Delhi, the concern was similar. Addressing the symposium NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden said, "Earth Science gives an opportunity to come together with representatives from other space agencies around the world to talk about things that are common to all – the challenge of changing climate and the challenge of natural disasters. Working together can advance knowledge about planet for all humanity".

Why Collaboration?

Climate change is a challenge that knows no boundaries. It endangers issues that span countries and regions, demanding a coordinated response that transcends national biases. Problems are too large and the necessity of having different measurements very frequently from space requires all space agencies work in coordination to make the measurements needed by the science community. However, making measurements are not just enough once it is done it needs to be freely and openly available so that researchers can use all of the data that are required to solve problems not just of their own but of other countries as well.

Not a single country even developed, can be fully interdependent to build a space network or solution, neither in terms of equipments nor in terms money. Building a space mission requires huge investment, different mind for different approach and these all need collaboration. It is not just of money but of mind as well. One can collaborate in money or equipment then other in idea.  Collaboration could be an increasingly attractive option for governments that are facing budget issue for large space missions.  For developing countries collaboration can not only be helpful in solving problems, but can help them to acquire technologies and human capital to develop their space technology.

Collaboration – not new.

The International Space Station is one of the biggest examples of what international collaboration can achieve. Launched in 1998 and borne out the collaboration between 5 space agencies – NASA, ESA, Japan’s JAXA, Russia’s Roscosmos and Canadian Space Agency – the ISS is now the largest artificial body in orbit and can often be seen with the naked eye from Earth. The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields. The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements. The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS).

Similarly, since  2007, NASA has been studying concepts for a Synthetic Aperture Radar mission to determine Earth change. In the course of these studies, a partnership with the ISRO developed leading to a joint mission with L-band and S-band SAR systems on board, NISAR. This mission aims to create the world’s largest freely available remote sensing data set. Expected to be launched by 2020, NISAR will create one petabyte of raw data every year which will help to predict changes in Earth’s topography.

Collaboration is not new. It has always been there. The focus is to make it the buzzword.

As Bolden says Earth is the most important planet. Mankind can’t do anything in terms of exploration or technology if we don’t have the Earth to live. We need to get the focus on Earth Science back to its historic level and that is only possible when all space agencies join hand and work together in collaboration to take action toward global climate change.