Creating a National Strategy for Environmental Intelligence

31 August 2011 | News story

A recent conference brought together those who develop the technologies that monitor the Earth with those who need the information to better manage it. CEC was a cooperating partner. (Español)

Versión en Español

Conservation, sustainability practices and understanding biodiversity require many tools. Environmental intelligence—the information helping us identity and understand changes in the world around us, and the actions needed to address them —is increasingly growing in importance.

Amid the increasing costs imposed by recent natural disasters and extreme weather events on businesses, individuals and governments around the world, Earth observations leaders met on June 14th to assess U.S. environmental information capabilities and examine the need for a national strategy to ensure the availability of this critical information.

A recent conference brought together those who develop the technologies that monitor the Earth with those who need the information to better manage it. The IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) was a cooperating partner. The Forum on Earth Observations™ V: Creating a National Strategy for Environmental Intelligence is the signature event of the Alliance for Earth Observations, which is headed by CEC Specialty Group Leader Nancy Colleton.

The discussion covered a variety of topics, including insurance, international development, military operations, ocean monitoring, and public-private partnerships. Key takeaways of the event, outlined below, may prove useful for the user, policy, non-governmental organizations, and business communities as they put together sustainable development strategies in this rapidly changing environment.

  1. According to MunichReinsurane of America, recent natural disasters have become “game-changing events,” with society bearing the brunt of the cost: the 255 events that took place around the world up to May 2011 produced 18 thousand fatalities and $253 billion in losses, of which $48.3 billion were insured losses.
  2. For agencies like the U.S. Department of the Interior, which manages U.S. natural resources, climate change is creating a pressing need to understand and adapt to these changes. When rethinking conversation and resource-management, measurement and risk-assessments are becoming crucial for designing landscape-level strategies.
  3. No single agency or government can collect all the necessary information to understand and address global challenges. Public-private and international partnerships are important for leveraging resources and expertise, as well as for providing necessary redundancy.
  4. The traditional data flow model is shifting, with data now moving across and between private, public and international actors. At the same time, the open-access data model is being adopted around the world, making it easier for users to access critical information.
  5. Climate change is a national and international security issue. Addressing the many challenges it presents, such as increasing the pressure on world food supplies, exacerbating demand on natural resources, and impacting economic and social development efforts around the world, requires the following: (a) Improved understanding of the state of the world’s resources, how these are changing and what are the drivers of change; (b) Long-term sustainability of global Earth observations from a variety of platforms; (c) Greater data availability and sharing to ensure that critical information reaches user communities in a timely fashion; (d) Multidisciplinary approaches that integrate the human component to assess human sustainability.
  6. Countries like the United States must develop strategies that ensure long-term measurements, integrate education and public outreach strategies, and facilitate widespread availability of Earth observations data. These steps will not only increase the value of investments in a constrained fiscal environment but will also enable actors to take advantage of new economic opportunities.

For more information, contact Laura M. Delgado Lopez, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies,
Laura_delgado@strategies.org