The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released their latest report, warning that delaying action will raise risks and impact economies. This mission to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to ensure stability means that global participation will be necessary. The path to a cleaner and more sustainable world will require greater monitoring and measurable action, and the geospatial toolset is poised to make major contributions.
There has been steady progress and innovation for geospatial technologies for many applications and disciplines, but none of these have the wide-ranging and integrative power that the climate change battle represents. The requirement to meet aggressive goals by a 2050 timeframe poses a great challenge that will require changes. Geospatial technologies provide a means to understand and visualize change as well as the tools to accurately monitor progress toward our goals.
The ability for geospatial technologies to capture and aggregate a global or regional view across our landscapes makes it a very important tool for the coming actions. Thankfully an exploding number of earth observation platforms are coming at the right time to aid in our understanding by providing new and increasing quantities of measurements on a global scale.
Combining forecasts with an understanding of topography and populations provides our best means to make sense of what’s to come. There’s a need to share successful actions and benchmark success along with an ability to tailor similar approaches for the particular constraints of each locality. Geospatial tools provide the means to tailor the design and planning tools to the evolving environment, acting as both collector, modeler, analyzer, and reporter of change in order to take action.
Global sea-level rise provides perhaps the easiest and most dramatic representation of ongoing global warming outcomes. Certainly you’ve seen the maps that depict this change across the world and at your closest coast. With sea ice melting at alarming rates, the global perspective is a necessary and chilling depiction of some of the dire and worst-case scenarios. While the outcomes on any forward-looking map are far from certain, looking at a familiar map and failing to recognize our coasts and continents definitely draws our attention.
Geospatial technology has the power to increase our understanding of these and other potential outcomes by presenting maps, models, animations and reports of the change taking place around us. There are a string of interrelated issues around this global change, such as loss of habitat that harms biodiversity, ocean acidification that kills our corals, and increased drought that impacts food security. As the systems and tools to integrate what we know about our planet, geospatial technologies will provide a hub for greater understanding of these issues as we endeavor to live within the carrying capacity of our planet.
Climate change is an incredible security challenge, for if we lose energy, fuel, water or food, then we lose the underpinnings of successful society. This awareness affirms why the U.S. military forces have been pursuing renewable energy and alternative fuel sources for some time. The military is prepared to still have the means to move if there is the disruptive factors escalate into anarchy. There are a great many things that can be done before we get to this point, however, and we’ll all need to be more cognizant of our individual roles in order to make progress.
The consequences of climate change are real and significant, and they’re being felt already as we witness more extreme weather and damages across the nation. The response to such threats has a national, regional and local recipe, and it’s geospatial technology that provides the clearinghouse for data, best practices, and collaboration across different scales of government and on to the private sector.
The threats of climate change will be something that we deal with for generations as feedback loops and inertia make it difficult to gain ground. Through the course of our response, we’ll be gaining a better understanding of our world around us, uncovering complexities that still elude us. Geospatial technology provides the lens to cut through this fog for measurable action.