Brussels, 27 November
The ad hoc intergovernmental
Group on Earth Observations (GEO) will hold its second meeting this
week in Baveno, Italy. The meeting aims to give direction to the
continued development of a 10-year plan to implement a comprehensive,
coordinated, and sustained Earth observation system or set of systems.
The first meeting took place in August 2003 in Washington, DC, immediately
after the first Earth Observation Summit, which established the
In Baveno, the Group will review
the first draft of the GEO Framework Document that will lead to
a 10-year implementation plan to be presented at the next ministerial
meeting to be held in Tokyo next spring. The Plan will direct the
co-ordination of observing systems that link thousands of individual
technological assets into a comprehensive Earth observation effort
and provide critical information needed to address important global
economic, social and scientific challenges. This information will
help policy-makers around the world make more informed decisions
regarding climate, the environment, and a host of other economic
and social issues that are affected by Earth and climate systems.
This second GEO meeting will be
co-chaired by Achilleas Mitsos, Director General for Research at
the European Commission, Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Under Secretary
of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, Akio
Yuki, Deputy Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and
Technology, Japan, and Rob Adam, Director General of the Department
of Science and Technology, South Africa.
The first Earth Observation Summit,
in July 2003 in Washington, marked an important milestone in the
development of a comprehensive, coordinated and sustained Earth
observation system(s). During the Summit, a joint Declaration was
adopted that ? recognized the need to move forward in the development
of these systems,
- reaffirmed the need for Earth systems data and information
for sound decision-making,
- set forth principles for long-term cooperation in meeting these
- committed to improving Earth observation systems and scientific
and technical support in developing countries.
This Declaration also established the GEO. The GEO will pave the
way for the second Earth Observation Summit in April 2004 in Japan,
where the Framework Document will be adopted. The 10-year Implementation
Plan will be adopted at the third Earth Observation Summit in Europe
at the end of 2004.
The need for developing a comprehensive, coordinated and sustained
Earth Observation system or systems have been recognized among nations
at the highest political levels. In September 2002, the World Summit
on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa, called
for improved cooperation and coordination among global observing
systems and research programs for integrated global observations.
In June 2003, the G-8 Summit held in Evian, France, called for strengthened
international cooperation on global observation of the environment.
Around the globe, Earth observing systems have already demonstrated
their value – e.g. in estimating crop yields, monitoring water
and air quality, improving airline safety, and forecasting the weather.
However, gaps or “blind spots” in understanding Earth
and its complex systems severely limit our knowledge of how to address
many concerns relating to drought, disease outbreaks, crop forecasts,
energy, and transportation. Relevant tools are required to address
scientific uncertainties and improve management of the natural resources
that underpin our economies.
The high cost of uncertainty
Our need for tools to predict severe weather at short notice and
to monitor long-term atmospheric change has never been greater.
There are powerful economic as well as environmental incentives
for gaining a greater understanding of these phenomena. According
to a survey by the Center
for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, in the last 25
years, natural disasters have affected 4.1 billion people and lead
to the loss of 1.3 million lives worldwide .
For example, in Europe, the economic and social costs of unpredicted
climate change is huge: France recorded 11,435 weather-related mortalities
in the first 2 weeks of August 2003 alone when temperatures soared
over 40°C (104° F); fires in Portugal this summer caused
over €1 billion in damage; the bill for repairing damage in
Germany following the floods of summer 2002 was about €15 billion
and this year German farmers fear a loss of 80% of their crops because
of the drought.
In the United States, more than $3 trillion of U.S. GDP is affected
by climate and weather - including the agriculture, energy, construction,
travel and transportation industry sectors. In Japan, abnormally
low temperatures in the summer of 2003 will cost the country an
estimated $2.7 billion in lost crops. It is also well documented
that inadequate Earth observation capacity is significantly constraining
poverty alleviation efforts in developing countries, as many aspects
of their economies are especially sensitive to climactic hazards.
To address these types of problems, significant investments have
already been made already made in space and in-situ or surface-based
observing systems. For example, Europe has invested in the ENVISAT,
SPOT, METOP and Meteosat Second Generation satellites for a variety
of land, ocean and atmospheric and meteorological applications.
Developing countries have also increasingly been investing in strengthening
especially their in-situ observation facilities, including meteorological
services. As an example, the Environment Initiative of the New Partnership
for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) includes an important focus
on the role of Earth observation.
In addition, international organizations such as The World Meteorological
Organisation (WMO) have played a leadership role in developing global
observing networks. The global observing system of the WMO, World
Weather Watch, collects and distributes data around the globe from
over 10,000 land surface stations, 7000 ships and 16 meteorological
and environmental satellites. Other monitoring systems include the
Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), Global Climate Observing System
(GCOS), and the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS).
These systems provide critical data. However, linking and expanding
the existing systems will add considerable power to an already impressive
data collection effort and a quantum leap in our ability to predict
and manage Earth system cycles and processes. The GEO will build
upon the existing efforts at integration of these and other systems
begun five years ago within the Integrated Global Observing Strategy
For more information on GEO please
Scientific Officer, Directorate Environment, DG Research,
Tel + 32 2 296 0618
Scientific Officer, Directorate Space and Transport, DG Research,
Tel + 32 2 296 7934
Press officer, Information and Communication, Research DG
Tel.: +32.2.296 90 56, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spokesman for Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, Press DG
Tel. +32.2.296 41 74, Fax +32.2.296 30 03, E-mail Fabio.Fabbi@ec.europa.eu
Additional information :
Or see GEO web site at http://earthobservations.org