Climate Change Is a Geographic Problem

Climate Change Is a Geographic Problem

Reducing the risks caused by climate change is an immense challenge. Scientists, policy makers, developers, engineers, and many others have used GIS to better understand a complex situation and offer some tangible solutions. Technology offers a means to assess, plan, and implement sustainable programs that can affect us 10, 20, and 100 years into the future.

A GIS-based framework helps us gain a scientific understanding of earth systems at a truly global scale and leads to more thoughtful, informed decision making:

  • Deforestation analysis spurs successful reforestation programs and sustainable management.
  • Study of potential sea level rise leads to adaptive engineering projects.
  • Emissions assessment brings about research into alternative energy sources such as wind turbine siting and residential solar rooftop programs.

Climate change is a geographic problem, and we believe solving it takes a geographic solution.

What are the benefits of using GIS technology to advance climate change science?

Jack Dangermond

About Jack Dangermond

Jack Dangermond founded Esri with a vision that computer-based mapping and analysis could make significant contributions in the areas of geographic planning and environmental science. The recipient of 10 honorary doctorate degrees, he has served on advisory committees for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Science Foundation.
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40 Comments

  1. Matt Ball says:

    Even with growing awareness and actions, the global increase in carbon emissions appears to be a losing battle. The amount of carbon already in the atmosphere, and what’s coming along behind it, means that the earth’s climate will be warmer for a long time to come. Tapping existing technologies and creating new solutions will become essential to combat the coming changes. Geospatial technology contains the ideal tools for climate change adaptation—allowing us to measure, model, monitor, manage, and mitigate against impacts. To avoid a dramatic disruption of society due to climate change, it’s imperative that geospatial technology is in place to manage the many inevitable impacts so that they may be minimized.

  2. Dr. James Baker says:

    Stopping deforestation and growing new forests, particularly in the tropics, are the easiest and fastest way for society to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and mitigate global warming. GIS is one of the key elements of the forest carbon monitoring systems needed by tropical developing countries to manage their forests. The William J. Clinton Foundation, in partnership with ESRI, is helping selected countries build compliance-grade monitoring systems for mapping carbon information and providing decision-support tools for these countries to meet international regulations. Once these GIS systems are in place for forest monitoring, they can also be used to establish and maintain property rights and land tenure, key elements of economic development. Therefore, just as forestry monitoring is the entry point for dealing with climate change, the systems we use for forestry monitoring are the entry point for development in general.

  3. I participated as an Accredited Canadian Delegate to the UNFCCC Montreal Climate Convention (COP11/MOP1), where we discussed with health officials (WHO, Public Health Agency of Canada, CDC, etc) the health impacts of climate change, the importance of healthy communities/ecosystems and the role of GIS in both mitigation and adaptation efforts, to support sustainable community development, growth of a low carbon economy, and educating decision makers + the public on cost-effective opportunities for reducing carbon emissions. We believe GIS is central to the development of smart grid and transportation systems (which encompasses demand side management, planning for energy needs in the North East, enabling grid efficiency, smart metering, and hybrid energy system deployment). The NB Climate Change Hub is a small operation, established in 2000 with 10 other Hubs across Canada. We operate with government and industry funding to facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue and implement programs aiming to reduce carbon emissions or help communities adapt to climate impacts (e.g. in the north, along coastlines). The NB Hub operates ESRI ArcGIS Server and plans to disseminate information via interactive modules http://www.nbhub.org, as more of it becomes available through the province’s + Canada’s spatial data infrastructure. For more details of our 2010 workplan (focussed on capacity building for municipal GHG reduction, smart grid and hybrid/community energy systems), do not hesitate to contact us: 1 506 455-8961 ext 113.

  4. Climate change is a reality that unfortunately impacts all aspects of the human existence. Unsustainable patterns of lifestyle and human settlement development is a key factor in increased carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. This unnatural emissions uptick caused climate fluctuation and extreme hydro-events worldwide, such as impeding water shortages and droughts in the summer as well as extreme flooding during the winter. This impacted food production and security and caused and the destruction and displacement of many communities that lost their livelihood. Whether you believe in global warming or global dimming, this is just an example of the many all too familiar substantial environmental ramifications of climate change.

    Finding ways to live in harmony with nature is an indispensable goal. Adaptive use of GIS technology as a decision-making support system would foster green development and environmentally friendly growth patterns. The ability to acquire, display, and disseminate accurate data allows us to analyze the spatial patterns of issues and forces influencing the relationship between humans and the environment, which is crucial in understanding the intricate nature of this bidirectional relationship. Humans impact nature and in turn nature equally impacts us. Deploying advanced GIS technology enables policy makers to explore various alternatives and implement more successful and potent strategies to combat the many adverse impacts of climate change. GIS can help scientists and researchers investigate this issue, monitor implications, and recommend sound and environmentally sustainable policies to promote peaceful interaction between humans and nature in a way that mitigates harm to either the environment or future generations.

  5. GIS is a veritable tool in curbing the Global Climate change problem as it enable us efficeiently map the trends related to these climate changes in any geographical space. we can analyse and model our world with its climate change problem to an impeccable detail using Geospatial technology. we can therefore analyse and anticipate what the fututre holds for us and what changes can be affected today in order to manage and mitigate these problems.

  6. May be in the next future ESRI would make available several meterological data through webservices.
    The use of climatic data such as :
    -Rain (average over 10-2030 past years)
    -Temperature
    -Solar radiation
    -Wind
    -others…
    should be deployed by ESRI with high quality data with partnership of local meteorological centers (or research institute) in several countries of the world.
    By now only the US webservices allow an access to basic climatic data.
    Gis Users still can hope an évolution in that way very soon.

  7. India has been identified as one of the vulnerable countries from meteorological disasters, that are showing an increasing trend from Climate Change. And yes, I agree that we need to bring GIS to the centre table with that can “enable policy makers to explore various alternatives and implement more successful and potent strategies”

    Coming from a developing world, and having interacted with stake holders especially with the Disaster Management allies, I heard the need for LOW COST and SCALABLE solutions in this area.

    Unfortunately very good players in this area that already have a technology advantage tend to have a different market strategy and they tend to charge on the higher side. The users here feel that the GIS industry should move from selling Server Licenses to selling Proven Solutions to such users.

    These were some of the inputs from the user community in India, that they personally wanted to bring before this forum.

  8. Remote Sensing and GIS is one of the key elements of the forest carbon monitoring systems needed by tropical and subtropical countries such as India developing countries to manage their forests.

  9. Dr. Fred Stolle says:

    Climate change is a global concern. It is one of the first problems we encounter in recent times that links all geographies in a direct way to each other. The trees cut and burned in the heart of Borneo emit the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change in the USA and around the world. In that sense, you might think that there is no further need for spatial analysis, since no matter where it happens, there is a global impact. However, to mitigate GHG emissions, it is crucial to understand where certain activities are taking place. A prime example is deforestation.

    Deforestation is one of the largest contributors to climate change (12%–15% of GHG emissions are related to deforestation). Land clearing in tropical forests is still occurring to create land for agriculture. When organizations clear primary rain forests on peatland, the process can potentially emit more than 400 tons of carbon per hectare. However, if an organization clears a secondary degraded rain forest, only 150 tons of carbon per hectare are emitted—a reduction of almost one-third. Suddenly, it is very important where something is happening. By carefully choosing the location for expansion of agricultural land, countries can continue to develop their agriculture while minimizing their contributions to climate change. A pure win-win situation.

  10. The scientific community has already demonstrated the incredible power of geospatial technology as a key enabler for advancing our shared understanding of past and future climate change. The most striking examples of this are the multitude of powerful geospatial visualizations that have been developed to communicate the urgency of our current situation by showing the past, present and possible future of the earth based on state of the art science. Examples of these visualizations include those depicting disappearing glaciers in the Arctic, plant and animal species migrations, and sea level rise and coastal inundation.
    These images have literally changed the way we think about our world and its future.

    And this is just the beginning. What I am particularly optimistic about in the short term is our growing ability to use geographic approaches to drive decision making on how we as a society can most effectively adapt to a changing climate. Staying with the above examples, it is one thing to see where see where scientists believe the coastal zone will change in the future, but I think the true power of geospatial analysis is that it allows us to systematically assess our options for mitigating these changes and minimizing any adverse impacts. While this capability is currently largely limited to the domain of professional geospatial practitioners, these tools will ultimately be more seamlessly integrated into mainstream, consumer oriented visualization platforms. In this environment, all levels of government, academia and the private sector will increasingly be able to work in collaboration on the public policy framework that will be needed to address these pressing issues.

  11. Matt Hayes says:

    Combating climate change will require fundamental changes to the standard of living enjoyed by the developed world. This means real sacrifices for everyone concerned. Unfortunately, I see the world community only reacting once an issue has evolved into a crisis situation and then lavishing resources in an attempt to mitigate the inevitable impacts. It defies logic, but it is human nature. I would echo the comments of Matt Ball and say that GIS tools offer some of the best approaches to prepare for what might surely be a huge challenge for the world community.

  12. My organization is using GIS and custom Python scripts to process, analyze, and display climate projections. We use these data to assist communities planning responses to climate change that integrate the needs of natural and human systems.

    While GIS plays an important role in planning and monitoring agreements to reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, we are committed by our current and past emissions to some level of climate change. Using GIS allows communities to make plans based on the best available scientific information and integrate the needs of both natural and human systems.

  13. Peter Stephens says:

    Understanding the impacts and implications of climate change requires, in part, validated greenhouse gas inventories. Knowing the areal extent and spatial location of land-use changes, and the resultant greenhouse gas emissions and removals, are fundamental to compiling credible greenhouse gas inventories. This is particularly important for the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector. New Zealand is using remotely-sensed data and GIS to meet its land-use change mapping and reporting obligations under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. GIS technology provides the platform for storing and managing land-use change data in a transparent and and fully versioned manner, ensuring that good practice is met. Further, GIS technology will be just as important to future measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) activities associated with reducing emissions on deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) once international agreement has been reached on climate change rules and processes.

  14. NGOUFO Roger says:

    As a leader of a NGO organization who is contributing since 1998 (as a founding member of Global Forest Watch Cameroon)to expand to expand the GIS technology. I support the fact that GIS will be instrumental in the domain of climate change, its impacts and the vulnerability to be able to give a better picture of where problems are and where efforts are being made to search for suitable solutions.Buiding capacity in the south for the mastering of GIS and remote sensing technology must continue to be a top priority

  15. Many of the comments already posted have made an excellent case for the current role of GIS in terms of our present understanding of where the Earth system is today with respect to climate change and where it may be headed over the next decades. These are critical first steps that have at least set the stage for effective response. Going forward, though, spatially enabled decision support technologies will be equally critical in terms of delivering rational, transparent, and repeatble solutions for mitigating the consequences of climate change, and perhaps avoiding the most severe scenarios. Given the scope and complexity of the challenge in front of us, it is none too soon to be launching such efforts in ernest.

  16. Gregory Vlasek says:

    I must challenge Mr. Matt Haye’s assertion that, “Combating climate change will require fundamental changes to the standard of living enjoyed by the developed world.” That is simply not true. We can virtually eliminate our carbon emissions to the atmosphere by transitioning to nuclear and solar power. We can expand the global carbon sink by conserving and expanding global forests. GIS has an absolutely critical role in monitoring progress and validating solutions. Human population must also be controlled (which the developed world has already done, Mr. Hayes.) I encourage everyone to read Garrett Hardin’s sobering and scientifc assessment. Once mankind determines and honors the optimum carrying capacity of the earth, all can live richly indeed.

  17. The ability to combine feature locations, detailed databases of attributes, remotely sensing data, and spatial modeling tools in GIS present limitless opportunities to explore environmental issues such as climate change. At the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment we are already using GIS on several of our research projects. For example, as part of the project entitled “Initiative on Climate Adaptation Research and Understanding through the Social Sciences” http://www.icarus.info/ we are compiling case studies of human adaptations to climate change, coding information about them into a standardized database, and mapping their distribution around the world. With this GIS database we will be able to better understand how local populations can adapt to changes such as flooding and drought and how relationships between livelihoods, institutions, adaptations, and location affect outcomes. The School of Natural Resources and Environment also houses an international research group called International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) http://www.umich.edu/~ifri. Many of our affiliated researchers are incorporating GIS technology into their work flows. For example, one of our newest projects related to REDD policies (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) in Southeast Asia will incorporate GIS in several parts of the project. Researchers will collect GPS locations of forest plots, villages, and other prominent features in addition to detailed field data. Using GIS they will be able to combine field data with several other spatial data sets (e.g. climate models, current and historical aerial photos, remotely sensed images, weather patterns). One of the hottest topics in the research world right now is climate change. In the near future I would expect to see a dramatic increase in GIS climate change projects as scientists all over the world are frantically writing proposals in response to the increase in available funding for this topic. GIS plays an integral role in many of these projects given the spatial nature of the problem.

  18. GIS is often seen primarily as a tool for educated analysis of causes and impacts of phenomena related to climate change. However, it can also have an operational role in mitigating global warning, especially when integrated with using the internet for information collection and dissemination.

    At Arbonaut, we look forward to operating forest carbon measurement as a process shared both with local forest-dependent communities and with Internet based GIS users. The process merges field measurements with airborne laser scanning and satellite images into a seamless information flow that collects, distills and disseminates detailed, high-resolution carbon offset estimates to all parties concerned in near real time, in terms of tree growth. Intelligent GIS tools are indispensible in achieving such speed and accuracy.

  19. Solving the challenges of global climate change will require building a smarter planet. Because the world is now becoming even more instrumented and interconnected than before, systems, processes, and infrastructures are becoming more intelligent. They are being linked to powerful new back-end systems that can process huge quantities of data and to advanced analytics capable of turning this data into insight in real time. A critical tool in this smarter planet will be geographic information systems for interacting with data in geospatial frameworks. So, whether it is visualizing assets in your city’s water infrastructure, improving efficiencies of turbines in a wind farm, or assessing water availability and quality on a local scale, representing this data with GIS technology to deliver advanced operational intelligence will be critical.

  20. Stu Rich says:

    We are currently witnessing one of the most dramatic human migrations in the history of our planet. As the Information Age unfolds, people all over the world are migrating from rural areas to cities in search of opportunity. The good news is that people are finding opportunity in the urban centers and, in general, standards of living are rising. The combination of urban migration and improved living standards is driving a building boom, the likes of which the world has not seen before. While Shanghai and Dubai might be the most recognizable symbols of this global urbanization trend, it is unfolding across the planet in places like Ghaziabad, India; Lagos, Nigeria; and Santa Cruz, Bolivia. In Shanghai, more infrastructure is built each year than currently exists in Manhattan, New York. Given that fully half of our collective energy consumption is used to heat and light buildings, there is a direct and immediate link between this building boom and climate impact. The fact that the vectors for climate change are clustered in urban environments has been well documented for years. The number and global distribution of large cities is dramatically on the rise.

    The thoughtful application of geospatial technology is essential to help us manage this amazing building boom and reduce its overall effect on climate. New 3D city models are evolving that bring the interests of infrastructure management, public safety, health and environment, and facilities management all together in integrated spatial data infrastructures. These newly emerging systems will help us to make better informed urban design decisions. With geospatial technologies, we can and must design better urban environments, monitor our energy consumption, measure indicators of health and safety, and manage toward a sustainable future. As Jack has stated, climate change is a geographic problem. Our solutions to the problem must be geographically informed.

  21. Dr. Guoliang Liu says:

    We have added Carbon Storage to the Forest Simualtion Optimization model FSOS as one of the forest management objectives. We have done a lot of projects to analyse the impacts of forest management on carbon storage. GIS is the tool we have been using for forest planning and management. With GIS, we can help to make decision where and when we apply what forest treatment to balance, sustain and maximize forest ecosystem objectives such as timber, wildlife, watershed, carbon, etc. As a big forest country Canada with a small population, we can contribute a lot more to the world to store more carbon by managing forest better and reduce forest fires.

  22. Here at GeoTech Center, where we represent two year college geospatial programs, we have participated in several NSF-sponsored Climate Change workshops in DC this past fall. I can testify that without exception, every scientist at these workshops were deeply concerned with Climate Change, and its implication for negative impact on our environment and economic welfare. One scientist described the coming change “not as a gradual event, but rather a trainwreck”. His point being that once Climate Change reaches its critical mass, the impact will be more like the movie “2012″ than we care to admit.

  23. Max Crandall says:

    The emerging carbon financial forces will change the world as the global community sets the next emissions reduction compliance date for 2020. Wall Street banks and financial regulators like the Futures Trading Commission project that the Cap and Trade markets will cause carbon credits to be the largest traded commodity in the world; projected to be a $2 trillion traded commodity five years from now.

    It is hard to believe that greenhouse gas – GHG science is as flawed as recent claims imply. Science is not like a corporate trade secret that is proprietary and guarded. Science is shared universally which makes it difficult to believe that all the world’s scientists have been in collusion for the last couple of decades and have been making false claims about carbon changing the thermal dynamics of the atmosphere. Do you think that fossil fuels dissipate into space instead of being trapped in the atmosphere as purported? Do you think the GHG science does not really prove that carbon contributes to trapping more heat? This change in the validity of GHG science and conservatives focusing on proving that there is no proof of carbons causing global warming is going to be an interesting scientific debate, and ArcGIS should be used for decision support to prove the facts. Since the carbon trade is solely based on regulations and not on physical demand or needs like the physical commodities it will certainly be interesting to see the outcome of how they manage this challenge in Copenhagen because Copenhagen is purely “policy”, and so far they have done a very poor job in refuting this claim.

    We all know that “emissions” are added to the atmosphere to an extent that causes harm to society’s health. However, emissions are different than carbon, and carbon is at the core of the environmental finance trade that deploys the cap and trade mechanism. USA politicians could conceivably legislate an “emissions” Climate Bill but that would have a much different focus than with carbon, and the carbon credit financial derivatives market will go away.

    The debate will get intense and the “pro” global warming constituency will have to prove that carbons are truly GHGs causing change. Will Congressman vote to enact H.R. 2454 and S. 1733 during the current economic troubles and add the purported costs that will trickle down to the consumers? Under these circumstances and with next year’s 2010 congressional elections taking place, the majority of congressmen will most likely not vote for a Climate Bill in order to keep their job. The Climate Bill will die and so will Cap and Trade and the exchanging of the carbon commodity.

    Or, will terrestrial based carbon credits become a sought after asset class? Once the federal government enacts its Climate Bill legislation the acquisition of terrestrial carbon based credits will be extremely competitive and expensive. The recent proposals to the emerging US cap-and-trade draft legislation suggest that the Senate intends to keep domestic forestry and agriculture offsets as a major component of the climate bill. Our existing policy and regulations for monetizing carbon in the emerging regional compliance, pre-compliance, verified emissions reductions, and voluntary emissions are setting the precedent for what is creating an entire new area of law and that means a lot of money is at its core. Senator Stabenow’s addendums have grandfather clause protection for these carbon credits monetized in offset projects by these early actors. EPA’s emissions tracking requirements begin January 1, 2010 and will further increase the volume of demand for these CO2 credits.

    Carbon accounting software is proliferating as evident by SAP’s recent acquisition of a startup. Microsoft and Google are already making inroads into the global community’s eyes, but are they doing it for bettering mankind or for showing the world their company has gone “green” and it is simply a branding campaign? These organizations technologies are clever, but their products lack the depth of functionality to scientifically measure, quantify and model the changes to biomass cultural practices that can be used in the field to sequester more carbon. ArcGIS has the necessary functions that can calibrate terrestrial science models at the acre/hectare level for validation and certification in the carbon trade. In this emerging terrestrial carbon credit origination market where legal documents will provide rights from biomass properties throughout the world it looks like ArcGIS is beginning to play its well deserved role as a foundational technology in this emerging economic force.

  24. At ITTVIS, we are an organization that deals largely with remote sensing, and climate change is an issue with which we deal extensively. Tying in remote sensing technologies and data with GIS is a powerful combination of understanding spatial patterns in the earth’s ever changing surface. Remote sensing allows us to understand what’s going on in regions that are largely unaccessible but very significant in regards to climate forcing, as well as tracking regional scale areas that are not feasible to do on the ground. Using this information in a GIS allows us to track, model, and observe climate trends across the planet’s surface, giving us the necessary information to help us set goals, policy, and educate the public.

  25. Rajiv Chauhan says:

    We can use Remote sensing and GIS for the monitoring of climatic and meteorological changes in India. Already lots of people have made lots of comments on the subject only we need to take action with the help of autonomous bodies in order to achieve the some control over carbon emissions.

  26. Chuck Anderson says:

    Forests represent fully 12-20% of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions around the world. Thus, the potential exists to eliminate a significant portion of global warming by including them within the solution set. However, they are unique assets in many ways relative to other GHG offset classes and present a series of challenges which must be addressed if they are to be included as part of the global efforts to reduce GHG emissions. Among them, forests are ever dynamic in that they grow, die, burn, fall down, are harvested etc… In addition, measuring the initial carbon stocks and measuring change over time can be immensely problematic using traditional inventory techniques. There are also the challenges of transparency, permanence, leakage, and additonality. Each of these issues present key barriers to successfully creating fungible, quality assets within this marketplace. If these concerns cannot be addressed to the satisfaction of both the regulatory community as well as the financial markets and the general public, forests may be forced into the margins of this global challenge, when in fact they should be at the forefront. Spatially explicit GIS datasets are fundemental to solving each of these challenges.

    Need for National-State-County-Project baseline: as this market has emerged, project developers and countries are being challenged to demonstrate that projects which reduce deforestation (for instance) in one area, are not being off-set by increased harvesting somewhere else in the nation. The result in this scenario would be zero (or negative) net benefit to the environment from the project. National, sub-national and project baselines are also needed to measure a countries progress against its publicly stated goals in a scientifically credible manner. Thus the creation of high resolution, spatially explicit data sets which can be aggregated to project, sub-national and national inventories on the same platform are critical.

    Need for High Quality data: in order to create a fungible asset class and a tradable commodity, investors need certainty that the off-set they purchased actually exist in the real world. With the myriad of techniques currently being used to assess forest inventory, determining the “true volume” in the forest is of significant concern. The present approach to address this concern is to create very large buffers (up to 50% of total tons) which essentially act as the alternative to assuring the client their tons are “really” in the forest. As a result, project holders are unable to monetize the full value of their assets which in-turn compress financial returns and reduces the net amount of forests being preserved.

    Need for Platform technology: to create transparent, scalable and efficient markets, there is a growing recognition that a platform approach at a national level will be required. This will help ensure that monitoring can be done cost effectively and that transparency can be provided to the regulatory authorities and auditors in a way that enhances the credibility of the project, and the sub-nation or nation that the project exists within.

    Non-carbon assets: Clearly, forests have a unique role to play in global warming for their carbon sequestration capabilities; however they are also extremely valuable for their biodiversity and watershed protection. As a result, forests can rarely be viewed for their carbon sequestration potential in isolation. They must be viewed in context with all of the ecosystem preservation potentials including as potential sources of additional revenue. The result is a growing need for tools and capabilities that will enable baseline and monitoring of these assets as well. Success in this endeavor will require fusing science, technology, field verification techniques and organizational core competencies into a single process thereby leveraging the unique strengths of the participants of this partnership. Geographic Information Systems are fundemental to addressing this challenge.

  27. Gordon Garry says:

    Regional and Local Governments in California will be using GIS to design innovative solutions that lower the per capita emissions to meet California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006’s (AB 32) greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal of returning to 1990 emissions levels by 2020. New forecasting tools now in use in several metropolitan regions across the U.S. contain land use characteristics from our tax parcels to more accurately reflect and predict travel behavior. As the regional planning agency for California’s Capital Region, it is critical that our agency designs future plans that provide low or zero emission travel behavior in the future. Our parcel based GIS software tool I-PLACE3S facilitates the evaluation of integrated land use and transportation scenarios to create plans with significantly lower emissions. Wider use of forecasting tools like I-Places is needed to more accurately predict the benefits of wise land use choices and the consequences of poor land use choices. These tool need to be a part of the U.S. and global discussion on how to develop meaningful solutions that lessen the impacts urbanization has on our climate.

  28. Dr. Nguyen Huu Ninh says:

    The increase of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, combined with climate variability, will likely bring about more extreme weather events, such as tropical storms, floods, and droughts. Global warming and the induced climate change are projected to exacerbate the frequency, magnitude, and intensity of climate-related weather events. Disasters brought about by both climate variability and climate change are thus climate-related disasters.

    GIS technology upholds base-level information requirements and provides emergency management workflow support through data management, situational awareness, planning, and field operations.

    In my recent visit to ESRI in Redlands, California, I was really impressed by some of the powerful applications of GIS to climate change issues. It seems that the visualization of data and planning processes based on GIS tools will give comprehensive situational awareness to policy makers who need to make the right decisions for disaster and emergency management situations at the right time. The application of GIS technology could then provide solutions to many problems raised by climate change, such as disaster and emergency management, among others.

  29. I agree that land use patterns and in particular forests and forest management can play a key role in helping control global carbon emissions. I also agree that GIS tools and spatial data are essential elements of decision-support systems which can enable us to appropriately develop truly sustainable (triple-bottom-line) land use and forest land management strategies. It has been my experience over the last three decades of conducting spatial analyses on large and small landscapes that the necessary GIS tools to support the requisite planning and analyses already exist. What is lacking is natural resource information with sufficient spatial and attribute detail to enable the appropriate precision level to the achieved in the planning process. It seems to me that if we really want to be able to utilize forests and natural resources to help combat climate change, the first priority is to find a way to secure sufficient long-term funding for the collection and maintenance of better site-specific data. Then we could really make use of all the superb GIS tools and information.

  30. Larry Orman says:

    Beyond the tremendously important role of GIS in defining the science of climate change impacts and informing policy choices is the role that spatial visualization must play in galvanizing opinion leader and average person alike. In a world where shouting soundbites often prevail, geospatial initiatives must present compelling stories that distill their main points in ways that regularly create “aha” moments. At GreenInfo Network, a non-profit, we’ve learned that the best GIS science will struggle unless it immediately grabs and holds someone’s visual attention. There’s too much information competing for mental bandwidth – we’ve got to be skilled at the art of climate knowledge, not just its science.

  31. What are the benifits using GIS…for climate change and the environment?

    I am working with the next generation, 18 year old students, who really will have to deal with the impacts of our present lifestyle. Climate change is one of these coming problems (- or possibilities).

    Our students are working in a local scale, to understand the global trends. They ara monitoring and maesuring permafrost at a research station, measuring ice thickness i a melting glacial, measuring changes i water quality in several lakes around the area, to see changes in the environment. This monitoring activities is stored in a database and we are producing maps to show data and changes.

    Another application; We are situated in a mining-town, (Kiruna), 200 kms north of the Arctic circle. This town was built as a model-city 100 years ago. It was built on a southfaced hill, with the most modern infra-structure at that time. Well insulated wooden houses, electrified stoves, electrified railway and trams as transportation. Well known architects and artists were involved in building this town. There was a clear goal to develop good education, art and working conditions for the population. These goals may be seen as social, economic and ecologic aspects of what we now call sustainable development. Anyway, this town is now threatened by the mining. The iron ore lies under the town, and a great deal of the town has to be moved or rebuilt, within a decade. The vision is to build “model city part2″.This process involves planning, where GIS is a great tool. Where to localize the new town; City hall, famous church, new schools ? GIS can be a great tool for making these decisions. Our students will make a weighted model, with different parameters; solar radiation (to reduce energy costs), population, dust problems, viewshed, iron ore in the ground, and so on, to identify optimal places for the new town.

    So what are the benefits with GIS….?
    we understand the local and global scale of environmental impact and it´s an excellent tool to learn, understand and to make wise decisions. Besides…it´s great fun !

  32. After spending the last two weeks in Copenhagen at COP-15, it is apparent that geography is critical to all aspects of the climate change discussion. Many different organizations such as the UN, government agencies, NGOs, research institutes, academia, and more, are all using GIS to manage, analyze and present their findings regarding a very broad array of climate change science. These organizations are using GIS to mitigate climate change impacts, plan adaptation strategies, and compare the outcomes of various climate model scenarios. Perhaps most strikingly at this meeting, we learned that many GIS applications are presently targeted towards policy and decision makers, to ensure that climate change data and science is accessible to the non-scientist in an easily digestible, actionable form. We were amazed by the wide array of demonstrated work related to issues of broad reaching humanitarian implications to building more climate change resilient cities. We were especially pleased to see so many wonderful GIS-based exhibits, including: Global Adaptation Atlas by Resources for the Future (RFF) (www.adaptationatlas.org); Humanitarian Implications of Climate Change: Mapping Emerging Trends and Risk Hotspots by CARE for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) (www.careclimatechange.org/files/reports/CARE_Human_Implications.pdf); Summary for Policy Makers: The Geography of Forests and Climate Solutions by Resources for the Future (RFF) (www.forestcarbonindex.org/download.html); BioCarbon Project Monitoring and Verification by Green Belt Movement (http://greenbeltmovement.org/w.php?id=103); Applied climate-change analysis: The Climate Wizard Tool by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) (http://www.climatewizard.org/); ClimateActionMap supported by UN HABITAT and the National League of Cities (www.climateactionmap.org)

  33. Chad Kopplin says:

    Using GIS and Remote Sensing Techniques allow us to utilize complex statistal methods to view trends and changes at specific times or over periods of time. Methods used for one time period can be reused over multiple time periods to help find the causes of climate change within specific regions and also show a particular regions impacts at local, regional, continental, and global scales. Many have heard the arguments that what happens in the head waters of a watershed have an impact all the way to our oceans. It is also the case with climate change or any other phenomenon. To really solve the problem we need to understand the phenomenon at all spatial scales, and GIS can help us get closer to these answers. GIS can also help us study potential solutions to these problems and potential outcomes of implementing the potential solutions. It can help us become visionary rather than reactionary.

  34. GIS and remote sensing technologies provide the framework, tools and data needed to address complex Earth-centric problems such as climate change. It is not enough to know that changes are happening. We must have the depth of understanding needed to quantify cause and effect and to implement proactive mitigation strategies where the consequences of those changes are undesirable. GIS plays a central role in helping us understand local and remotely sensed data in an integrated, historical context. Tools such as ArcGIS and its ImageServer application facilitate advances in the Earth sciences and the ability of researchers, government and the public to collaborate and contribute on a global basis.

  35. A GIS with full data from the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure is the best model of our real world. This GIS with updated data helps people to know what happens in our planet, how the climate change takes place, and where impacts of climate change affect people. Based on the updated GIS the people can make plans for reducing climate change’s impacts. The most important issue now is to build a Global GIS to share spatial data with people and to call people for participation in updating it with the seen impacts of climate change around each of us. We have no any tools better then GIS for scientific researching, and also for practical activities planning to know climate change and to reduce its impacts on our planet.

  36. To reduce the risk of climate change, firstly there is a need to understand the true nature and cause of climate change, to closely control its movement and impact on regional and global scale.

    Everything on the earth is related to each other. To understand or to prevent or to fight to climate change, we cannot skip the steps of building general database in order to explore and apply GIS integration abilities which are very essential. No matter how complicated GIS technology is, it cannot be ignored and cannot be abandoned from our lives and civilization.

    It should be regrettable if state managers and policy-makers do not understand the roles and benefits of this technology and therefore do not pay adequate attention on it. In this case they will have problem in taking on-time actions to gain appropriate solutions for complicated situations which include economic and social development planning, coping with emergencies, natural disasters, perils of global climate changes.

    GIS helps us understand the situation and helps analyze the actual state of climate change, substance development visibility, direction and road map in the future. GIS also helps us better evaluate the climate change impacts on not only local area but also country-wide. Obviously, a global solution cannot be bypassed.

    GIS integrates climate change issues all scales: a global scale, inter-national, inter-regional, inter-disciplinary, inter-related ministries and related fields; GIS convincibly helps us understand related issues in a general, easy, clear, and impressive way, especially for state officers, policy makers and decision makers.

    Vietnam is a developing country, but our state officers and policy makers are aware of this issue. They understand the importance of GIS technology and are increasingly aware of the abilities to explore and apply this new technology. This technology is not only applied in the central government but also for all provinces, cities of the whole country, all the universities and companies, industries and other fields.

    Although GIS is not the only solution to prevent climate change but it needs to interoperate with other solutions and technologies, GIS is still the indispensable technology in our work fighting to climate change.

    Climate change is the global danger with full theatricality. We can only fight to climate change based on the geographical, united, and symbiosis solutions. It’s certain that together with the developments of socio-economic, life and human civilization, GIS is also developed since they are the same entity.

  37. As the global climate changes, we need to take local actions to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, and to help people and nature adapt to unavoidable impacts. The Nature Conservancy uses GIS technology to measure and monitor carbon emission savings when forests are protected and restored, to assess the vulnerability of species and ecosystems to climate impacts such as temperature change and sea level rise, and to communicate scientific information to policy-makers and the public. For example, our latest application Climate Wizard (www.climatewizard.org) combines ESRI’s GIS and web mapping services to make climate data and state-of-the-art climate projections easily viewable and freely available to anyone with a computer and internet access. By facilitating access about how climate is changing in space and time, GIS technology empowers researchers to contribute to better understanding of how climate change affects the places we care about, and helps to inform more effective policies and strategies for combating climate change.

  38. The recent interplay between technology and man-induced climate change has constantly brought this perplexing question to our minds: Does modern technology really owe ecology an apology?
    This answer yes might have held true a few decades ago; however, with the advent and widespread use of GIS technology, we are starting to see ways in which modern technology could actually contribute to climate change science and finally make it up to ecology.
    At the risk of sounding cynical, I believe that it is important to come to terms with the fact that even if we were to immediately stabilize or substantially cut our carbon emissions levels, we could be still looking at decades of global warming and drastic climate change. So it is here that the importance of assessing, mitigating, and responding to inevitable climate-induced natural disasters comes to exist.
    GIS, along with its potential to acquire, measure, model, monitor, and disseminate accurate data, not only plays a principal role in understanding our crosscutting ecosystem changes and advancing climate change science but also helps us address the risks caused by these phenomena, understand them, and fight their impacts. Be it acquired through regular earth observation, remote-sensing techniques, early warning systems, postdisaster satellite imagery, or global navigation satellite systems, the geospatial data required for GIS and mapping applications has become indispensable in the world of disaster management as well as emergency response.
    The interplay between GIS, climate change science, and disaster mitigation and management is brought to the fore, for example, when attempting to understand risks and vulnerabilities to weather hazards, which in itself requires a cross-disciplinary approach. Quantitative and qualitative geoinformation about the climate and environment, as well as other factors, can provide a platform for better assessment, prevention, or preparedness, playing the role of a political support system in various countries and accounting for better and more informed decision making.
    Unfortunately, various problems arise when addressing the interplay between GIS, climate change, and disaster management, among which are the two notorious shortcomings in accessibility and awareness that often mar the potential of response-oriented GIS applications. The first of these two problems is highlighted above in Mr. Madiraju’s comment on the importance of supplying users with low-cost and scalable data and imagery. It is indeed lamentable to know that this technology exists but is often far flung and inaccessible to the countries and users who need it the most. Also, Dr. Jerry Johnston’s contribution hints at the need to seamlessly integrate and mainstream this technology, which brings us to the second crucial issue of awareness raising. This in itself is a necessary leap to open the eyes of the world’s governments primarily to the existence of such a technology and, secondly, to its worth and importance in climate change-related disaster mitigation.
    It is here that the role of the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) also comes to exist, aiming at providing universal access to all types of space-based information and services relevant to disaster management by being a gateway to space information for disaster management support, serving as a bridge to connect the disaster management and space communities, and being a facilitator of capacity building and institutional strengthening. I allude to Mr. Orman’s aforementioned point when I assert that UN-SPIDER is indeed—along with other similar initiatives—trying to wake up the world to these “aha moments” by highlighting the compelling stories that geospatial initiatives often leave behind.
    On a final note, the UN-SPIDER team believes that GIS indeed contains every fiber of what Arthur C. Clarke once described as an “advanced technology,” one whose “magic” can truly help mitigate climate change-induced disasters and save lives for decades to come, if it’s placed in the right hands at the right time.

  39. Dr. Nosa Erharuyi says:

    In almost all public and private initiatives (Research and Policy) to tackle climate change, there is the need to bring together (integration) the natural and human system, the physical and social science. GIS is a pivotal tool to realise the centralise repository within a common view that will certainly speed up insight and understanding

  40. We now have the ability to display the data from climate focused GIS systems in ever more sophisticated and intuitive ways. New API’s, including the ArcGIS Flex API, give developers new tools to build advanced geospatial web applications. Allowing up to the minute climate data to be interrogated, understood and acted upon.