The space industry is meeting policy makers on the Global Space Conference on Climate Change (GLOC 2023) in Oslo to discuss how space can help against climate change.
GLOC 2023 is held in Oslo from the 23rd to the 25h of May, organized by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and hosted by the Norwegian Space Agency.
The world’s first conference on space and climate change began with a musical performance by Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen, a young representative of the indigenous Sami people in Norway.
Then the conference was formally opened, first by a greeting from the President of the International Astronautical Federation, Clay Mowry.
- I can’t think of a more important theme than climate change to bring the space community together, Mowry said.
He also pointed out that without the space sector, we wouldn’t have the knowledge and understanding of climate change that we do today.
The Director of the Norwegian Space Agency, Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, emphasized in his opening speech that:
- The challenges we face from climate change and sustainability are daunting, but we must turn them into opportunities. Space is essential for understanding climate change, and to develop new and improved services to handle and mitigate its effects.
The last opening speaker was Norway’s Minister of Climate and the Environment, Espen Barth Eide.
Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s Minister of Climate and the Environment. Photo: C. Stuedal
- Climate change is the greatest existential challenge of our time. Spaceship Earth is in deep trouble and we need to inform mission control, i.e. our policy makers and leaders, Barth Eide said.
He also pointed out that more than half of the essential variables used for climate change modelling are from space data.
Barth Eide especially mentioned the Norwegian NICFI project, which purchases high resolution satellite data of forest use and makes this public access for developing countries.
- We need your competence and knowledge and solutions to handle the climate change crisis that is coming, Barth Eide told the space community.
In the first high-level plenary session, the focus was on the current state of our planet and how the space sector can help.
- To mitigate the effects of climate change, using all the advanced technologies we do have, including space technology, AI and machine learning, will be important, said Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency ESA.
- To fight climate change we also need inspiration, and inspiration is a key ingredient in our work, as well as international cooperation, which the space sector has been doing for a long time, said Susie Perez Quinn, Chief of Staff at NASA.
Richard Spinrad, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, and Administrator at the American NOAA, agreed that listening to, inspiring and educating the next generations is important.
- Satellite data will make it easier to predict future needs and help develop sustainability for a better future, said Koji Terada, Vice President of the Japanese space agency JAXA.
- Space gives us an incredible tool box. We need to use these tools in a smart way, by strengthening our mission control and to act on science and facts, Barth Eide concluded in the first high-level plenary session of GLOC 2023.
“Space as a toolbox for climate action now” was the theme of the third and last high-level plenary discussion on the first day of the space and climate change conference.
Here, the participants agreed that understanding the end users’ needs, such as for earth observation data, was one of the most important aspects.
- Because having yet more information doesn’t always make decisions quicker, easier or better. Only when we can support the actual decisions people need to make, are the data of benefit to the users, said Phil Evans, Director General of the European weather satellite organization EUMETSAT.
Lionel Suchet, Chief Operating Officer of the French space agency CNES, admitted that the end users for climate change mitigation are larger and wider communities than the space organizations are used to working with, and that this is a challenge.
Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, administrerende direktør ved Norsk Romsenter. Foto: NRS.
Einar Bjørgo, Director of United Nations Satellite Centre, shared that they do a lot of training and capacity development in different countries.
- We are working closely with local governments, authorities and communities. They don’t need to be able to analyze the satellite data, only know how to utilize it for their own needs. We do the underlying data gathering and have developed applications and tools they can use, Bjørgo said.
Hauglie-Hanssen mentioned the Earth Observation internet portal BarentsWatch as an example of a space data application that has been implemented in Norway, and can be developed further for use elsewhere.
The panel concluded that there needs to be a continuous dialogue with politicians, local communities and other end users. Communicating clearly what the space sector can do, is a part of this.
The GLOC 2023 conference aims to result in a concrete and direct action that can be handed over to the climate summit COP28 in Dubai this winter.
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