Just as a doctor cannot determine a person’s state of health by taking just one measurement, scientists cannot assess the state of our planet’s health without taking a variety of ‘earthly’ measurements. Today, technological systems around the globe are gathering information about the Earth and its environment. This data is being put to good use in estimating crop yields, monitoring water and air quality, improving airline safety, and in many other areas.
Yet, there is little coordination between the thousands of data buoys in the world’s oceans, the thousands of land-based environmental stations on the ground, and the over 50 environmental satellites orbiting the globe. Together, these systems generate literally millions of data sets, but, while technology has succeeded in providing the data, we have failed to manage and distribute it in an effective and efficient way. In addition, serious blind spots in our understanding of the Earth still remain, requiring targeted technological research and development to fill the gaps.
The GEO’s task has been to create a plan for a global system for gathering and distributing EO data. This requires bringing together existing and to-be-developed EO hardware and software and all of the numerous disconnected EO systems and datasets. It also means getting users involved. These include scientists, governments and industrial interests.
Connecting the scientific dots means creating a comprehensive ‘system of systems’, delivering solid information on which truly beneficial and sustainable policies can be built. In working towards a system that produces better information on the environment, the GEO hopes to strengthen the ability of decision-makers to tackle pressing societal issues, such as climate change, pollution, humanitarian crises and natural disasters.