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Taking space to COP28

8 December 2023

Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) is excited to be part of the very first dedicated Space Pavilion, showcasing the latest climate data, technology and products from the space industry under the theme ‘Space for Sustainability’, and supports the pledge to ‘enhance space-based climate initiatives to transform and accelerate climate action to meet the commitments outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement’.
NASA | Unsplash

Climate data from space underpins effective action to monitor and address climate change. A network of satellites constantly collects measurements of the Earth’s environmental conditions, not only providing information on what is happening on Earth presently but this data is also used in Earth system models that help forecast climate changes.

The UK’s Space4Climate stand within the first dedicated COP Space Pavilion is supported by the UK Space Agency and visitors are invited to meet some of the UK’s leading climate scientists and innovators, explore trusted and reliable climate data sets and discover cutting-edge climate products to support crucial climate decisions and actions.
Displays will demonstrate the UK satellite technology industry, innovation in Earth Observation and climate products to support effective decision-making and policies to address national, regional and global challenges.
PML has one of the largest aquatic Earth observation research groups in the world, undertaking science and operational processing of environmental satellite data for over 30 years. PML has also taken part in the COPs since 2009, including bringing Earth observation data, findings and applications to the delegates there.
Above: Beth Greenaway, Head of EO and Climate, UK Space Agency with PML's Thecla Keizer, Deputy Head International Office & International Marketing and Business Development Executive

PML data that is being displayed on the UK’s Space4Climate ‘Puffertouch’ includes:
  • Pools and Fluxes of the Ocean Biological Carbon Pump 1998-2020 - The ocean plays a key role in the Earth’s carbon cycle, helping to regulate atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Through photosynthesis, marine phytoplankton drive the biological carbon pump in which organic carbon from the surface is transferred to the deep ocean. Marine phytoplankton can be monitored using ocean colour remote sensing satellites. Using the data from the Ocean Colour Climate Change Initiative of the European Space Agency, PML and international partners have developed the first internally consistent dataset of the pools and fluxes of the ocean biological carbon pump. The length of the time series (1998-2020) allows for the analysis of trends in this important process. The data and associated publications have contributed to the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC.
  • Climate, extreme events and human health: threats and solutions associated with water - water is an essential natural resource, but increasingly water also forms a threat to the human population. Global warming, shifts in rain patterns and extreme weather conditions can lead to natural disasters such as floods or droughts. Water-related disasters can cause severe damage to the environment, property and human life. A less studied aspect of such events is the impact on human health through waterborne diseases. Earth observation data from satellites have the potential for developing cost-effective methods to monitor risks to human health, with free and open data available at the global scale. Here it is demonstrated how multi-spectral remote sensing images have the potential to be used as a public health tool by providing images of floods, water quality and human pathogens in the environment in the Vembanad-Kol Wetland system and coastal regions of Kerala, India. This ongoing research informs different stakeholders, including public health authorities and local governments in Kerala, India, about the role of the environment in the risk of waterborne diseases. The local population is engaged through citizen science projects on water quality and sanitation conditions, which allows them to make informed decisions about the use of lake water. This research has contributed to various policy briefs, including those for the 7th UN Multistakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals in May 2022 and COP27.
  • Primary Production in the Atlantic Upwelling Systems - The European Space Agency-supported Primary-productivity in Upwelling Systems (PRIMUS) project aims to provide the best possible characterisation of phytoplankton primary productivity and its relationship to upwelling in Atlantic Eastern Boundary Upwelling Systems (EBUS), a highly important system that supports fisheries off Africa and elsewhere in the world, such as Peru. It has created a 25-year time series of 1-km satellite-derived primary production over the Atlantic and a high resolution (300m) experimental product has also been produced.
 Puffertouch display

A pledge to enhance space-based climate initiatives

Also part of the Space Pavilion debut, the UAE Space Agency organized a Space Agencies Leaders’ Summit, witnessing participation from more than 20 international space agencies. The Summit brought key actors from global climate policy and space exploration sectors together and consequently sought to address climate programs and initiatives that will expedite the pathway to 1.5C.

The Summit discussed issues relating to enhancing data sharing between spacefaring and emerging space nations, strengthening climate research by allocating resources and funding towards climate research initiatives within the space sector, supporting climate monitoring initiatives by establishing new programs and promoting sustainable space operations by minimising the environmental impact of space operations.

The Summit represented a milestone that underscored the vital role of the space sector in confronting climate challenges and finding innovative solutions to support sustainability. The Summit subsequently ended with participants adopting a pledge to enhance space-based climate initiatives to transform and accelerate climate action to meet the commitments outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement.