Satellite technology and digital tools help quantify climate change impact and drive solutions to the world’s greatest challenges

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Click to watch the complete session - Global lessons in using satellite technology and digital tools for improved decision making across the Pacific region

 

A learning event with more than 85 participants from across Pacific countries and territories engaged with global leaders in the use of satellite data to inform and improve how we protect our planet into the future.

From deforestation to illegal mining and the impact of climate change on our coastlines, speakers from Microsoft, Geoscience Australia, Ghana’s Statistics Office and Colombia’s Institute for Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) shared their learnings in leveraging data produced by satellites to better inform decisions quickly at national and global levels.

Earth and marine observation technologies that utilise the global satellite network have only recently become available for largescale use, and this expanding sector is producing significant financial benefits. Currently, the sector is valued at USD 327 billion but this is expected to increase to USD 1.35 trillion by 2030.

The event was designed to bring global leaders together with Pacific countries and territories to inform the effectiveness of using this technology to tackle some of the region’s greatest challenges whilst supporting the development of Digital Earth Pacific, currently in its infancy.

SPC’s Digital Earth Pacific is leveraging the tools and expertise from the region and globally to drive the development of this work.

The Pacific region is 98% ocean and the vast distances between the thousands of islands across the region means using remote technology that can provide a snapshot into an area that may be affected by coastal changes or may have been hit by a disaster will be at the fingertips of decision makers in the region for the first time.

Actionable, timely, relevant and visualised data supported by this technology will inform solutions to some of the Pacific’s greatest challenges.

Microsoft’s AI for Earth and Ecosystems Manager, Alma Cardenas presented the Planetary Computer during the event which will form part of the work of Digital Earth Pacific.

Cardenas spoke about the fight against climate change as one that needs to progress quickly, and this technology is proven to visualise the impact being witnessed globally which is helping drive increased commitment towards climate action. 

“There is a lot of denial that the problem of climate change is real. The problem exists, and we are not acting to the level we need to, but this technology is showing us the shoreline is shifting and what is the actual financial risk to communities. It can now be quantified,” she said.

Omar Seidu from Ghana’s Statistical Service talked about the use of this technology to track and reduce illegal mining operations in Ghana that caused degradation to local rivers and water supplies. He explained the data and imagery allowed them to compare the impact of illegal mining from 2015-2021 and this drove decision makers to understand and act on the information in a clear manner.

Rachel Nanson from Geoscience Australia touched on the intricate understanding this technology provides to coastal changes and showcased some of the cutting-edge tools developed that can be applied to Pacific Island level environments.

Finally, David Herrera from Colombia’s Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) showed the understanding of wildfires in Colombia and deforestation actions that were driving negative impacts for the country. The information these tools produced was also used by emergency service agencies in Colombia to inform evacuation of comunities that were at risk of these fires.

Director-General of the Pacific Community (SPC) Dr Stuart Minchin moderated and hosted the event at the request of our Pacific Member states.

He emphasised the practical importance of this technology and said, “building comprehensive products that are routinely updated is the real advantage this technology gives you, so our decision makers be they police, environment officers or politicians are getting regular updates to the things that matter to them”.

Digital Earth Pacific is led by the Pacific Community (SPC) with Pacific Island Countries and Territories. The system will begin with targeted national case studies in key areas of agriculture, climate change, inundation and flood modelling, cyclone understanding, land use and digital elevation mapping alongside our Pacific Members.  A detailed needs analysis from across the region will be finalised in the coming weeks to showcase the areas of priority in scaling these technologies for use across the Pacific.

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