Space the next frontier in climate fight, researchers say

  • 09/02/2018

From battling illegal mining in Colombian forests to protecting Mongolian cattle from death by extreme weather, researchers are looking to space to cope with earth's climate challenges.

Climate change is causing more frequent and severe flooding, droughts, storms and heatwaves as average global temperatures rise to new records, sea ice melts in the Arctic and sea levels rise.

Now Earth is looking to space for answers.

The UK Space Agency said on Thursday that it would invest £38 million ($74 million) to help people cope with climate disasters by using satellites to monitor unpredictable weather patterns in Rwanda, deforestation in Colombia, the risk of forest fire in Indonesia, and the impact of severe climate swings on Tanzania, Fiji and Vanuatu.

"The UK Space Agency's International Partnership Programme will help developing countries tackle big issues like disaster relief and disease control," Britain's science minister Sam Gyimah said in a statement.

In countries like Colombia, forests are under threat from farmers seeking grazing land and criminal gangs cutting down trees for illegal gold mining.

When forests are degraded or destroyed, the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere, with deforestation accounting for 10 to 15 percent of carbon emissions worldwide.

In Mongolia, where about 30 percent of the population depend on livestock herding, severe winters known as 'dzuds' are killing off animals and devastating the economy. Camels, goats, horses and cows have been dying in record numbers.

The UK Space Agency's 10 projects, which will partner with global satellite companies like Inmarsat and CGI, join more than 20 existing initiatives that use satellite communication to tackle humanitarian issues that occur during cyclones and other natural disasters.