Norway’s public-private partnership shows how satellite can tackle deforestation
Economist Herbert Stein once wrote: “If something can’t go on forever, it will stop.
The question, of course, is when. This can be an infuriating question. Human beings have a talent for knowing a problem, talking about it until we are blue, and yet doing nothing about it, sometimes for decades. And then, within a few months, we can suddenly embrace the change.
We have seen this behavior during the pandemic. Remote working has been possible for millions of workers for at least a decade. But it wasn’t until we were forced out of our workplaces that we began to seriously reorganize work to take advantage of technology.
A much more serious example is climate change. A denial fringe may continue to loudly claim otherwise, but most of us have concluded that scientists were right from the start. The rising tide of drought, forest fires, melting ice, shrinking snowpack and super storms – not to mention sea level rise itself – has convinced us: Earth is changing at as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere.
And yet, most of us are still content to just know the problem, watch it, talk about it until we’re green, but not treat it like the looming crisis that it is.
A country has decided to put money where its mouth is. Norway is the first to pay tropical nations to fight deforestation. Forest clearing for agriculture and resource extraction strips an area the size of New Zealand every year. Deforestation releases billions of tons of carbon into the air each year while reducing the greenery that produces the planet’s oxygen. But a Norwegian grant to Brazil in 2008 saved enough forests to keep 3 billion tonnes of carbon from the air. Then, a 2010 deal with Indonesia offered incentive payments to cut emissions, and that country’s carbon output fell by half in just a few years.
How does Norway know its money is being used for good? This is where the satellite industry comes in.
Eyes that see everything in the sky
In 2020, Norway announced a one-of-a-kind public-private partnership with Planet, Airbus, and KSAT. Together, they provide access to detailed satellite images covering 64 countries, all free of charge.
Planet’s fleet of small Dove satellites captures images of all of Earth’s landmass every day. These images are detailed enough to reveal individual trees. Airbus adds an archive of images captured by its Spot satellites since 2002. These allow us to compare the forests of today with those of years ago. The Norwegian company KSAT collects all this data and provides technical support to the users, who can view and download the files of the non-profit association. Global forest watch or Planet.
With daily updates from space, the images offer the first chance to see deforestation as it occurs. Logging and clearing operations deep in the forest can no longer hide. Governments and international organizations can identify illegal actors and push them to change. And all of that value is free, as the Norwegian government pays for the service.
Make a dream come true
In the long battle to start doing something about climate change, it’s all about wellness. And there is one more reason to feel good.
When the CEO of Planet’s founders, Will Marshall, Chief Strategy Officer Robbie Schingler and Chris Boshuizen left NASA to start the company, that was exactly what they had in mind. They wanted to launch technology that could produce actionable data across the globe fast enough to spur action – to enable governments, businesses and researchers to make smarter, more informed decisions to better protect ecosystems from the world. our world. Thus, the generosity of Norway is also the fulfillment of their dream.
When will the rest of us be ready to turn the talk into effective action? Even Herbert Stein couldn’t predict this. But by bringing reliable, near real-time facts to the fight against climate change, Norway and its satellite partners are showing how to do it.
Robert Bell is Executive Director of Space & Satellite Professionals International. SSPI produces the Better Satellite World campaign, which highlights the immense contributions of space and satellites to life on Earth. More than www.bettersateliteworld.com.