Earth observation data to drive $3 trillion in economic benefits by 2030: WEF - Hindustan Times
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Earth observation data to drive $3 trillion in economic benefits by 2030: WEF

ByJayashree Nandi
May 07, 2024 03:20 PM IST

According to the report, the global value of EO data could swell from $266 billion to just over $700 billion in six years

Earth observation (EO) has the potential to drive over $3 trillion in cumulative economic benefits globally by 2030, while also advancing a wide range of climate and nature solutions, a new World Economic Forum report said on Tuesday.

For representational purposes only. (AFP File Photo)
For representational purposes only. (AFP File Photo)

The report identifies five key areas: 1) environmental monitoring – satellites and aircraft-borne sensors can monitor CO2 and methane emissions, pinpoint emissions sources like oil and gas pipeline leaks; 2) early warning – EO can be used to better characterise wildfire risk and to spot wildfires faster among others; 3) shipping route optimisation; 4) precision agriculture, including monitoring plant health and nutrient uptake from soil; 5) supply chain monitoring to detect illegal deforestation, etc.

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“Earth observation is a vital component of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Jeremy Jurgens, managing director and head of the centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution at the World Economic Forum, said in a statement. “It converges with artificial intelligence, digital twins and climate technology to offer a powerful toolset for economic prosperity and sustainable growth.”

According to the report, the global value of EO data could swell from $266 billion to just over $700 billion in six years – which rivals the GDP of a medium-sized economy such as Belgium ($628 billion) – and could add a cumulative $3.8 trillion contribution to the global GDP between 2023 and 2030.

The Asia Pacific region is poised to capture the largest share of EO’s value by 2030, reaching a potential value of $315 billion, while Africa and South America are positioned to realise the largest percentage growth.

In addition, EO data has the potential to eliminate 2 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions every year – an amount equivalent to the estimated combined annual emissions of 476 million gasoline-powered cars, the report estimated.

EO refers to collecting information about activities and characteristics on Earth, both natural and artificial, including physical, chemical, biological and anthropogenic (human) systems. It includes both remote sensing technologies and ‘in-situ’ data sources. Remote sensing uses a variety of sensors to measure reflected or emitted energy from distant environments. In-situ data is collected adjacent to the measuring instrument, like temperature readings by a thermometer.

Broadly speaking, an increased uptake in the use of EO data could stimulate innovation, drive efficiency and help leaders better manage risks. There are mainly two ways in which EO can reduce emissions – monitor climate variables and emissions, which inform actions to mitigate climate change such as limiting GHG emissions and supporting carbon capture; monitor ecosystems to inform actions that protect and strengthen natural habitats, biodiversity and overall ecological health, the report said.

The period 2024-2030, it said, is a vital window of opportunity to advance EO for climate and nature purposes. Major international commitments linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Global Biodiversity Framework, Paris Agreement, Rio Conventions, Dubai Consensus and others culminate in 2030 target.

Over the same period, environmental disclosure requirements and emissions regulations will take effect, thousands of new EO satellites are forecasted to launch and enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) may catalyse adoption. As a result, global adoption of EO could increase by 30% or more by 2030, according to a survey of about 40 EO industry leaders, the report projected.

In July 1972, the US Department of the Interior launched the first of the satellites that would become the Landsat program. Landsat 1 fundamentally changed geographic, cartographic and other Earth science disciplines while also paving the way for satellite-based EO data use in a wide range of other fields, the report said, adding that nearly everything on the surface of the Earth, and many phenomena above the surface, can be measured with remotely sensed EO.

History was made in Dubai last December when 196 countries agreed to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Fossil fuels, which have been a topic of taboo for years in climate negotiations, was finally addressed in a very carefully calibrated decision text titled the UAE Consensus through consensus building and various trade-offs. It however still doesn’t mention the words ‘oil’ and ‘gas’. Parties also agreed to triple renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030; accelerate zero- and low-emission technologies, including, inter alia, renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilization and storage among others.

The US and other developed countries wanted to push strong language on methane emissions at COP28 in Dubai. Around 110 countries have committed to a collective goal of reducing global methane emissions from human activity by at least 30% compared with 2020 levels by 2030. India and China did not sign the pledge. India kept away from it because India’s methane emissions are “survival” emissions according to the government. The two predominant sources of methane emissions in India are enteric fermentation and paddy cultivation.

The talks of monitoring of CO2 and methane emissions through satellites has been a contentious issue at climate negotiations as experts said developed nations, the largest historical polluters, would have the opportunity to push developing countries to take on more stringent curbs on emissions.

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