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Facts, Figures and Thoughts on World Environment Day

global warming, climate change and geospatial technologiesSome Facts:

 The Rising Temperature

  • April 2017 was the second-warmest April in 137 years of modern record-keeping, according to NASA‘s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).
  • In 2016, Earth’s average surface temperature hit a record level for the third consecutive year since records began in 1880.
  • The global average temperature was about 1.1 degree Celsius (1.98 Fahrenheit) higher than the pre-industrial era. This is when mankind’s mass burning of coal, and later oil and gas, started hiking levels of heat-trapping CO2 in the atmosphere.

The Melting Ice

  • Arctic summer sea ice shrank to 4.14 million square kilometers (1.6 million square miles) in 2016 — the second-lowest after 2012, when it reached 3.39 million km2.
  • The Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer as early as 2030.
  • On the other extreme of the world, Antarctica, sea ice last year hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellites.

The Greenhouse

  • The atmospheric concentrations of the three most potent greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) — all hit new highs in 2016.
  • For the first time on record, in 2015, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere averaged 400 parts per million (ppm).

The Rising Sea Level 

  • The average ocean level was 70 millimeters (2.75 inches) higher in 2015 than in 1993, having risen as much as 30 percent faster in the 10 years to 2015 than in the previous decade.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in January 2017 the global average sea level could be between 0.3 and 2.5 meters (one foot to 8.2 feet) higher by 2100.

The Perils

  • The number of climate-related extreme events — droughts, forest fires, floods, major storm surges — has doubled since 1990, research has shown.
  • The intensity of typhoons battering China, Taiwan, Japan and the Korean Peninsula since 1980, for example, has increased by 12 to 15 percent.
  • Natural disasters drive about 26 million people into poverty every year, says the World Bank, and cause annual losses of about $520 million (463 million euros).

The Endangered Species

  • Of the 8,688 species of animals and plants listed as “threatened” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, 19 percent — 1,688 species — have been negatively affected by climate change.
  • Scientists warn that parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef may never recover from an unprecedented second straight year of bleaching. 

After reading these facts, do you still think that Climate Change is a Chinese Hoax?

To address climate change, countries adopted the Paris Agreement at the COP21 in Paris on 12 December 2015. However, the US, world’s 2nd largest per capita carbon emitter, backed out of Climate Change deal. This is seen as a major setback, but the rest of the world still stand strong against the self-created jeopardy.

Global warming, climate change and geospatial technologies

In this regard, geospatial technologies cannot be overlooked as essential assets in combating climate change and global warming. Geospatial technologies not only provide visual proof of the extreme weather conditions, melting polar ice caps, dying corals and vanishing islands, it links all kinds of physical, biological and socioeconomic data in a way that helps us understand what was, what is, and what could be.

Here is what industry leaders have to say about these looming problems, geospatial technological aspect and much more…

Lynelle Cameron, VP Sustainability, and CEO Autodesk Foundation

Climate change is real and progressing: 2016 was the hottest year on record, for the third consecutive year. The effects of climate change are clear in rising sea levels, more frequent and intense storms, droughts, and floods. Global warming is more than an environmental issue; it’s a human issue. And, as if that’s not bad enough, the science says that its likely things are going to keep getting worse and worse.

The good news is that many of us in the private sector have been already preparing. We already power our businesses with 100% renewable energy, and we are designing net zero buildings, products, even cities. And we have an entire generation of young people around the world joining the workforce who are obsessed with innovating and designing the solutions that are needed to achieve a carbon neutral future. Now that Fortune 500 companies are including climate disclosure in their 10-K reports, we have good data indicating that the business risks and upside associated with climate are material to shareholders. More than $4 trillion in assets are at risk due to climate change, $60 billion in energy is used in US businesses buildings alone, and there’s a $5.5 trillion market for low-carbon goods and services. We are ready to capitalize on this business opportunity, creating both jobs and profit for shareholders.

One important outcome of the Paris Agreement is the extent to which countries, companies, local government and the social sector are collaborating in unprecedented ways.  The private sector has never cared more about collaborating around climate than it does today.

Dawn Wright, Chief Scientist, Esri

Climate change is 100% real (and according to 100% of scientific researchers whose work is rigorously in peer-reviewed), it’s us, and the implications are incredibly serious for human health, human mobility, food security, water security, city planning for sustainable and smart cities, and a host of other issues. In the US we have a shared value of caring for people who have less than we do. We know not only that climate change is real but that it disproportionately affects those least able to cope.

With US backing out of the Paris climate agreement, we are not willing to work on solving one of the biggest problems facing our planet, i.e., not willing to pledge a 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by the year 2025. A silver lining is that environmental problems and threats will not just disappear due to US federal recalcitrance and we at Esri are fully committed to applying The Science of Where to help solving them. This is especially true at the state level such as in California where we will continue to work to reduce emissions regardless. And as pointed out recently by an Australian climate scientist, the US backing out of the Paris climate agreement could make positive action and solution-seeking stronger across the world. The countries that are IN the agreement are likely to redouble their efforts through new trade measures and new, emboldened environmental leadership.

A.S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)

Earth observation satellites provide a vital means of obtaining measurements of the climate system from a global perspective. Which is why, under the impetus of ISRO and the French Space Agency (CNES), space agencies of more than 60 countries have agreed to engage their satellites, to coordinate their methods and their data to monitor human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

Charles F. Bolden, Former NASA Administrator

There is no better platform to observe our planet than space. And in order to do so you need a satellite that allows you to put various instruments on board so that you can do remote sensing to collect what we call geospatial data. Whether it is looking at weather or whether it is looking at the changes in the land, forests, oceans… all that is all considered to be data in the geospatial realm.

The big thing is to help people understand how we can’t understand our planet, we can’t tackle the challenge of changing climate or environmental changes and we can’t deal with natural disasters if we don’t have the vantage point of space to observer. That gives us an opportunity for repeated visits over the same area of the globe if we want. We can get three looks every day at a particular area that may be in crisis because of a flood or hurricane or typhoon or monsoons. Nowadays, we are good enough with meteorology and the meteorological satellites and the weatherman can actually forecast floods. For instance, thanks to some of the international satellites, the Bangladeshi government was able to evacuate people along the river last year and save thousands of lives.

Spatial analysis and data help in highlighting the realities of our planet in an irrefutable way to streamline decision-making and aid policymakers to understand which areas need immediate attention and action.

Let’s bring transformation before it’s too late!


Related Reads: Tech world dismayed over Trump decision to pull out of Paris Accord

Maps show 70% of Americans support the US as part of Paris Climate Deal


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Former Assistant Editor | Dreamer | Writer | Avid Reader | Travel Enthusiast | Go Digital | Meenal’s role largely involves content development for Geospatial World website and magazine. Meenal loves to write – be it technology, or applications, or commenting on industry trends. Keeping an eye social media for latest developments in the geospatial domain, churning out value from it and then taking it to the readers is her success formula. She has prior experience of eight years in BTL advertising and publication. A master’s degree in English Literature, Meenal is a complete movie buff and loves to spend her leisure time reading children’s literature.