As climate change continues to wreak havoc, the resilience of countries to withstand and recover from its impacts has become even more pressing.

The latest session of the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) Learning Series showcased some of the opportunities for climate change mitigation and adaptation presented by modern earth observation (EO) technologies.

James Close, World Bank Director for Climate Change, opened the conversation and underlined the scale of the climate challenge by sharing a striking fact from the 2015 Shock Waves Report - 100 million people could fall back to poverty by 2030 if climate change is left unchecked.

Photo: World Bank Satellite monitoring reveals increasing pressure on the ecosystem of Lake Victoria, East Africa.

In her opening remarks, session chair and Climate Investment Funds manager, Mafalda Duarte, asserted that if the global community is to deliver on the Paris Agreement, which goes into effect in November, then we need a change in mindset and new opportunities.  The availability of free, open and detailed data that is made possible by earth observations is critical to achieving the transformation that is needed in two ways: First, it allows decision-makers to become fully aware of the manifold problems related to climate change (e.g. state of degraded landscapes, impacts of natural disasters etc.). Second, it enables them to take action in the best informed manner (e.g. identification of hot spots of deforestation).

A panel of experts, most of who were fittingly connected remotely via technology, joined the conversation from around the world to share their insights and ideas about this fascinating topic.

Speaking from the 67th International Astronautical Congress, in Guadalajara, Mexico, Josef Aschbacher, the European Space Agency’s Director of Earth Observation Programs, reaffirmed his industry’s commitment to using earth observation to help address climate change issues.  Aschbacher pointed out that about half of the 50 climate change variables can only be monitored from space, making earth observation critical for strengthening our understanding of the planet and its evolution. Examples of such variables include sea-surface temperature, ocean color as well as precipitation and snow cover.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity is the vast amount of data that is being collected through the European-funded Corpenicus project, which is building a global earth monitoring system powered by 20 satellites known as Sentinels. 

Photo: ESA/Copernicus Summer minimum of Arctic sea-ice cover for 1980 and 2007. There is clear difference between the extent of sea ice at the end of the summer between 1980 and 2007. In September 2007, the area covered by perennial sea-ice shrank to the lowest recorded since satellite measurements began 30 years ago.

Aschbacher also highlighted the free availability of data captured by Sentinels, in line with ESA’s open data policy.  To date the European Union has invested EUR 8 billion, which is good news for developing countries and the global climate change community.

Kanta Kumari Rigaud, the World Bank’s PPCR focal point, stressed the need to shape climate resilience for transformational change, including by recognizing that technical assistance must be customized and hands-on, with a clear country focus.

Rigaud also introduced a climate services e-learning course that is in the final stages of development as part of the effort to enable climate-informed decision making within the Word Bank. The e-learning will include a special module, which introduces learners to the potential of satellite observations to inform resilience.

She closed by emphasizing that if the global community is serious about resilience for climate change, then it needs to move beyond climate talk to customized, data-rich solutions that are appropriate for country contexts.

Andy Dean, a remote sensing specialist, shared examples of countries in Africa where there is potential for using EO for monitoring rainfall, habitat assessment and water quality, amongst other applications.

Dean applauded the ESA Sentinels for their potential and expressed particular interest in their capacity to offer unique long term observations, build a historical time series of observations and provide consistent data quality.

Overall, discussants emphasized the need to work with countries to build their data capacity, and also help them identify early what they need the data for and then to develop their capacity to respond to those needs.  The potential is rich and such practical help to fully exploit it is critical.  

Watch Sessions 1- 5

  1. Climate Resilience & Migration
  2. Climate Resilience & Cities
  3. Climate Resilience & Landscape Approaches
  4. Climate Resilience & El Nino Food Impacts
  5. Climate Resilience & Earth Observation

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About the PPCR

The $ 1.2 billion Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) assists national governments in integrating climate resilience into development planning across sectors and stakeholder groups. The CIF’s investment is the largest in the world, to focus on mainstreaming climate resilience through national development plans, in the ongoing effort to drive transformation.

To date, the first group of PPCR pilots (18 countries and 2 regions) has successfully completed the programming phase and are now in different stages of preparation and implementation of projects as outlined in their national investment plans.

In May 2015, 10 new pilot countries were identified to join the program. Those countries are currently developing their own climate-resilient investment plans.

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