Environment and Earth observation today

Most of times potential uses of Earth observation (EO) are narrowed down to three, such as regulation and enforcement of specific laws, monitoring of compliance with environmental laws in previously targeted sites, and provision of historic evidence. EO is unlikely to replace ground-based monitoring, but in the right circumstances, it can provide valuable supplementary data and court evidence and increase the efficiency of monitoring by narrowing or pre-selecting areas for ground-based investigation.

Earth observation technology is both ‘invisible’ and virtually omnipresent. As such, it will provide a strong deterrent effect once widely used. It may not be able to continuously monitor a location but this could be the general perception and as such, it might be seen as a credible ‘threat’. Ray Purdy agrees in his article from 2009 and explains that the EO services could therefore decrease the resources required for monitoring and improve overall law enforcement. More efficient use of resources would mean better handling of an increasing volume of environmental laws with the same or smaller teams.

As a number of authors argued in 2010, Earth observation could significantly support environmental policy development, contributing required up-to-date spatial information on the state of the environment and the impacts of policies over larger areas. According to this article, satellite-derived information can help:

a) formulate policies by verifying and quantifying issues that have been recognized on the ground;

b) implement policies, e.g. through retrospective baselines to clarify changes over time in cases where these where not establishes prior to developments, e.g. oilfields;

c) with policy control, including enforcement and compliance with regulations, e.g. land use impacts on protected areas, illegal logging, and urban sprawl; and

d) provide data for evaluation of policies and thus inform their further development.

At present, the legal sector does not regularly use satellite-derived information for environmental law enforcement. enviroLENS aims to bridge this gap and showcase the use of Earth observation data as ready-to-access evidence and scenario information on environmental situations.

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