Espen Barth Eide and other policy makers met the space industry at the world’s first conference on space and climate in Oslo.
The Global Space Conference on Climate Change (GLOC 2023) was 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 (NOSA).
Here, experts and leaders of the space sector met with policy makers, industry and organizations to discuss how space can contribute to the fight against climate change.
The world’s first conference on space and climate change started 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."
Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment, Espen Barth Eide, during the first high-level plenary at GLOC 2023. Photo: IAF / NOSA / A. Rochas
The last opening speaker was Norway’s Minister of Climate and the Environment, Espen Barth Eide.
"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."
"We need your competence and knowledge and solutions to handle the climate change crisis that is coming," Barth Eide told the space community.
The first day of the conference then featured three high-level plenary debates with leaders from NASA, the European Space Agency ESA, the European satellite organization EUMETSAT, the American NOAA, NOSA, the French space organization CNES, the Canadian space organization CSA, the Japanese space organization JAXA, the British space agency UKSA, as well as leaders working with climate change and mitigation in the UN and other organizations.
These plenary debates focused on the current state of the Earth, how to understand the needs of the end users of climate change data, and what the space sector can offer as a toolbox for climate action.
The rest of the first day was dedicated to the themes of how space technology can help fight organized crime in the global fishing industry, how to measure climate change in the tropics, and how to communicate about climate change by using the space industry as a source for inspiration.
The participants of the first high-level plenary at GLOC 2023. From left: Ru Kermani (Moderator), Espen Barth Eide (Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment), Josef Aschbacher (ESA), Richard Spinrad (NOAA), Koji Terada (JAXA), Suzie Perez Quinn (NASA). Photo: IAF / NOSA / A. Rochas
The second day of the conference included presentations about how Earth Observation and space data can contribute to building societies ready for climate change and what the carbon footprint of monitoring climate change from space is.
How the global methane in the atmosphere is observed, and how the space sector could help make the younger generations enthusiastic about the fight against climate change, was also in focus on the second day of GLOC 2023.
The third and last day of the conference had as highlight lecture "How Humans are Changing Earth" and, among other presentations, a plenary debate about how a future with climate change can be planned.
The conference ended with a plenary session that summed up the conference, the lessons learned and the way forward. This panel was moderated by Hauglie-Hanssen at NOSA.
"We want to leave a legacy from this conference with space for climate action as theme," said James Graf, Director of Earth Science and Technology at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Christian Feichtinger, Executive Director of the IAF Secretariat, agreed that a legacy was needed and that GLOC 2023 was only the first of several IAF conferences to focus on space and climate change.
Christian Hauglie-Hanssen, Director General of the Norwegian Space Agency, during the third high-level plenary at GLOC 2023. Photo: IAF / NOSA / A. Rochas
Summing up the technical sessions of the conference, Ole Morten Olsen - Director of Business development and Innovation at NOSA, observed that the space industry is currently on a wave of new technology development that is leading to new forms of data and making them more affordable.
"This new wave of technology, coupled with the development of artificial intelligence and digital twins, will enable us to not only measure climate change but to model it accurately for prediction and testing of various forms of mitigation," Olsen said.
According to journalist Ru A. Kermani, what the space sector is doing about climate change is very altruistic and inspirational, but that this story needs to be conveyed more clearly and with a better angle to the general audience.
"However, we can’t tell this story from a technical perspective. People want to know how space technology and data can help them directly in the fight against climate change," said Emma Gatti, Editor in Chief of SpaceWatch.Global. She also emphasized the necessity of open and accessible data for small and local communities.
Barbara J. Ryan, Executive Director of World Geospatial Industry Council (WGIC), thought the work against climate change across different institutions, sectors and nations was too disjointed.
She nevertheless mentioned the Norwegian NICFI project, which purchases high resolution satellite data of forest use and makes this public access for developing countries, as a good example of collaboration between the public and the private sector.
"But it’s not really a money problem, because so much money has been spent on climate change projects already. It’s a people problem, and that can only be alleviated by coming together and working together for a common goal," Ryan said.
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