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Climate monitoring systems top the agenda

New ways to monitor the Earth’s ailing health will top the menu this week at a gathering of ministers and officials from over 100 governments and international bodies in Cape Town.

The three-day meeting starting Wednesday and organised by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) will review progress in the global integration of national environmental monitoring systems.

“Concerned that climate change, deforestation, desertification, water scarcity and other human-induced pressures risk causing an environmental collapse, governments are collaborating through the (GEO) to secure comprehensive and near-real-time information about changes in the Earth’s land, oceans, atmosphere and biosphere,” said a statement by the GEO secretariat.

“This will be achieved by interlinking the world’s ocean buoys, weather stations, satellites and other Earth observation instruments into one fully coordinated system.”

The resulting GEO System of Systems (GEOSS) should enable countries to reduce their vulnerability to environmental change and disasters and improve their management of agricultural, energy and other resources.

The meeting will assess 100 “early achievements” in a ten-year plan running to 2015, the statementsaid.

These include the first steps towards a global drought early warning system and the introduction of daily fire danger maps for Africa.

“Climate change cuts across and encompasses many other issues, including disaster management, biodiversity loss, food security, and emerging health risks,” said Jose Achache, director of the GEO secretariat.

“Adapting to these expected impacts will require sophisticated environmental intelligence on how the Earth system responds to both climate change and adaptation policies.”

The GEO meeting would be attended by representatives of 72 national governments, the European Commission and 46 international organsiations.

It opens a few days before a UN Climate Change Conference on the Indonesian island of Bali.

“The GEOSS will revolutionise the way decision-makers craft both national and international policy,” said Achache.

“This emerging public infrastructure could prove as essential to economic and social progress in the 21st century as new transport and communications systems were in the 20th.”

Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its starkest warning yet on global warming, saying no country would be spared its “abrupt or irreversible” impact.

It warned that global average surface temperatures could rise by between 1,1$deg;C and 6,4°C by 2100, and sea levels by at least 18 centimetres.

Heatwaves, rainstorms, tropical cyclones and surges in sea level would become more frequent, more widespread and more intense, the group said.

More info at GEO