Sunday, October 26, 2008

British climate satellite monitoring in peril

Free Internet Press: A major program to monitor climate change from space could be in jeopardy after it emerged that the British government is poised to slash funding for the project. Climate scientists and campaigners have expressed deep concerns over the likely cut to the £128 million (about $220 million) promised to the Kopernikus program, which came to light just days after the government stepped up its commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

"The worry from the scientists is that it is essential to understand and monitor this change globally and it's not clear at this stage whether we're going to have the essential measurements to do that," said Paul Monks, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Leicester.

Kopernikus is the world's most ambitious environmental monitoring project. Led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and funded by European member states to the tune of more than €1 billion, it features satellites and a network of ground stations to monitor the effects of climate change, such as deforestation and coastal erosion. It has the specific purpose of providing accurate data for policymakers around the world.

The first of the five satellites, packed with scientific instruments, Sentinel 1, is due to be sent into orbit in 2011. "It's essential that we recognize that the Earth is changing and that we put an Earth-management plan in place. Kopernikus is that global view of a changing environment," said Monks.

…"There is going to be a huge need for data on deforestation, water runoff, flooding, sea-level rise, coastal erosion, large-scale fires," said Mary Taylor, climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth. "Satellite data can be extremely helpful in gathering lots of good, precise data about where exactly changes are happening on the Earth's surface."

Satellite animation by MG****, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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