United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

Addressing Climate Change

UNOOSA: Efforts related to Climate Change

In the scope of the UNISPACE III Conference held in Vienna from 19 to 30 July 1999, Member States recognized the contribution of space science and space applications to the well-being of humanity and development in areas such as disaster management, meteorological forecasting for climate modelling, satellite navigation, and communications. Such recognition led to the proposal of a nucleus of a strategy to address global changes in the future, which highlighted among others:

  • Protecting the Earth's environment and managing its resources, with particular focus in the enhancement of weather and climate forecasting by expanding international cooperation in the field of meteorological satellite applications;
  • Using space applications for human security, development and welfare, through the implementation of an integrated global system based on international cooperation to manage natural disaster mitigation, relief and prevention efforts; and to assist States, especially developing countries, in applying the results of space research with a view to promoting sustainable development of all people;
  • Strengthening and repositioning of space activities in the United Nations system, encouraging the increased use of space-related systems and services by specialized agencies and programmes of the United Nations system and by the private sector around the world, where appropriate, in order to support United Nations efforts to promote the exploration of peaceful uses of outer space.

Taking into consideration the consequences of deforestation, desertification, land degradation, depletion of the ozone layer, acid rain, and a reduction in biodiversity on climate change, UNISPACE III recognized the role of international space law, as developed by COPUOS, in providing the framework for international cooperation in targeting environmental monitoring and disaster management.

The use of satellites to monitor processes and trends at the global scale is essential in the context of climate change. Areas foreseen in this context are:

  • Continued observations and long-term monitoring of solar spectral irradiation to improve our knowledge and understanding concerning the influence of the electromagnetic radiation of the sun on Earth's environment, including the climate.
  • Continued observations to characterize changes in the atmosphere, oceans, and land surface, and use such information for climate change modelling.
  • Continued observations of the change in the ozone layer and its effects on the environment and human health.

To address the above issues, in recent years UNOOSA has conducted a variety of awareness and training activities, some of which have included climate change as a topic. The topic has been addressed in workshops organized directly by UNOOSA, or co-organized with partners through specific thematic sessions, and most recently in a specific symposium during the 46 th Session of the S&T Sub Committee of COPUOS in February 2009.

In addition, in December 2006 the UN-SPIDER programme was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations to address natural disasters, including those worsened by climate change.

A table below presents a list of activities conducted by COPUOS and UNOOSA where climate change is addressed.

Activities conducted by COPUOS/UNOOSA addressing Climate Change issues

Month/ Year

Activity

Relevance to Climate Change

Sept 2013

United Nations/Indonesia International Conference on Integrated Space Technology Applications to Climate Change

The Conference took place in Jakarta, Indonesia from 2 to 4 September 2013 and brought together experts from the space and the climate change community as well as decision makers to discuss methods to use space-based applications to support the identification and implementation of adaptation measures, as well as to share experiences and lessons learned on the use of such applications in the context of mitigation.

Oct. 2009

19th United Nations/International Astronautical Federation Workshop on Integrated Space Technologies and Space-based information for Analysis and Prediction of Climate Change.

The workshop will focus on the use of space-related technologies and information for climate change monitoring and prediction, with ultimate goals of exploring ways to solve social and economical issues caused by the climate change and increasing regional and international cooperation among developing countries, and between developing and industrialized countries.

June 2009

UN-SPIDER Vienna Workshop: " Building Capacities to Reduce Disasters".

The workshop includes explicit discussions on the impacts of climate change on Small Island Developing States, and potential adaptation strategies.

Feb. 2009

Scientific Symposium, S&T Sub Committee: " The role of Earth's observation satellites in promoting understanding of and addressing climate change concerns".

Organized by the International Astronautical Federation, the symposium focused on the use of space technologies to monitor climate change (atmosphere, land, oceans) and its impacts.

Dec.

2008

United Nations/Kenya/ESA Regional Workshop on Integrated Space Technology Applications for Monitoring Climate Change Impact on Agricultural Development and Food Security.

Promoting the use integrated space technologies such as remote sensing and GIS, navigation and positioning, telecommunications, satellite meteorology, and Earth observations in applications that could contribute to the prevention and mitigation of global climate change induced issues.

July 2008

United Nations/Indonesia Regional Workshop on Integrated Space Technology Applications to Water Resources Management, Environmental Protection and Disaster Vulnerability Mitigation.

The workshop included presentations and discussions on integrated applications of space technologies to address issues induced by climate change.

April 2008

United Nations/UNESCO/Saudi Arabia International Conference on the Use of Space Technology for Water Management

The Conference addressed application of space technologies to water-related problems and issues induced by climate change.

March - April, 2008

IISL/ECSL Symposium on " Legal Implications of Space Applications for Climate Change".

The symposium was held during the Forty-seventh session of the Legal Subcommittee (31 March-11 April 2008), and focused on legal aspects concerning the use of outer space for monitoring climate change (international treaties, coordination instruments, etc.).

Nov. 2007

United Nations/Vietnam/ESA Workshop on the Use of Space Technology for Forest Management and Environmental Protection.

The workshop included presentations and discussions on the use of space technology in climate change studies related to forest management and environmental protection.

Nov.

2007

United Nations/Argentina/European Space Agency Workshop on Sustainable Development in Mountain Areas of Andean Countries.

The Workshop included case studies in the application of remote sensing to mountain areas of Andean Countries, some of them targeting climate change (reduction of ice on glaciers used as sources of potable water by communities in mountainous areas).

Sept. 2007

UN/Austria/ESA Symposium on Space Applications to Support the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development: " Space Tools and Solutions for Monitoring the Atmosphere in Support of Sustainable Development".

Promoting the use of space tools and solutions for monitoring the atmosphere in support of sustainable development, with the aim to support or enable participants to develop and implement projects in this area and to provide reliable data and information for policy- and decision-making related to such issues as air quality, climate change, ozone and ultra-violet monitoring.

 

Looking ahead

UNOOSA undertakes steps to enhance cooperation with UNFCCC, GCOS, and other United Nations agencies involved to identify elements where the Office could provide substantive leadership or support taking into consideration its strengths and current mandates and efforts.

The Office considers the following areas as potential avenues of cooperation:

  • Promoting the use of space-based technologies and space-derived information for climate knowledge, science, assessment, monitoring and early warning.
  • Participate in the development of adoption of international standards concerning the measurement of the Essential Climate Variables (ECV) when using space-based instruments and promoting the establishment and operation of a global repository of satellite-based data to ensure access to such data by all Parties.
  • Facilitating capacity-building activities in the collection of, access to, and use of satellite-based data and information to support sustainable development in the context of climate change.
  • Promoting the use of space-based information to assess the vulnerability of communities to climate change with a particular emphasis on natural disasters, and promoting the use of such information to monitor the effectiveness of adaptation strategies.
  • Facilitating the use of the global array of space-weather instruments to study the relationship between space weather and climate change.

 

Space weather and climate change

UNOOSA is leading the development of the International Space Weather Initiative (ISWI), particularly through expanding IHY/ISWI low-cost, ground-based, world-wide instrument arrays.

There is a link to a short video produced by European Space Agency (ESA) on interrelations between space weather and climate change. The video refers to magnetic field, particle showers, solar activity and the ionosphere, and all these four phenomena are targeted by the 14 operational ISWI instrument arrays.

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