Photo credit  |  Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Climate data from space to support Dasgupta Review’s options for change

News  |  02 February, 2021  |  Reading time: 3 minutes
We welcome the formal launch of the Dasgupta Review today (February 2, 2021). As Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta stresses, environmental and climatic conditions are integral for all aspects of the health of our planet’s ecosystems.

In the review he states that humanity has collectively mis-managed its global portfolio of assets, and that the demands on nature far exceed its capacity to supply the goods and services on which society relies. Earth observations help us to understand rates of habitat loss and the impact this may be having on biodiversity, particularly in forest environments.

Prof Dasgupta concludes by recommending three interconnected ‘options for change’ which, summarised, are:

  • Ensuring that our demands on nature do not exceed its supply, and that we increase nature’s supply relative to its current level;
  • Changing our measures of economic success to help to guide us on a more sustainable path;
  • Transforming our institutions and systems – in particular finance and education systems – to enable these changes and sustain them for future generations.

Observations from the in-production BIOMASS mission will enable better insight into habitat loss and the impact this may be having on biodiversity in the forest environment.

UK expertise from our members the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) and Airbus is feeding into BIOMASS, which is a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite mission which will improve the accuracy of our understanding of forest carbon storage and variation over time. Find out more about the BIOMASS climate mission, and the expertise the UK is contributing to it.

Prof Shaun Quegan, NCEO, is the proposer and Lead Scientist of the BIOMASS mission. He says:

“One of the big gaps at the moment is the ability to map vulnerability of forests, to see and measure degradation of forests. Over time changes turn a full forest into a ‘non-forest’ – a forest that no longer supports or provides ecosystems. The BIOMASS mission will contribute to filling those gaps.”

One of the services our Space4Climate community is delivering that will support the objectives of the Dasgupta Review is trusted climate data from space to improve the accuracy underpinning:

  • Valuing stocks of natural capital and flows of ecosystem services
  • Calculations relating to storage of carbon and biospheric goods and services
  • Natural capital’s own rate of return.

AIRBUS is leading the consortium building the BIOMASS satellite in Stevenage, Herts. It will carry the first ever space-borne P-band synthetic aperture radar, a unique tool that is the result of decades of research. The data it sends back will enable us to measure the 3D structure of forests from orbit, which can be used to estimate how much biomass they contain, and therefore how much carbon is sequestered in every forest on the planet.

Figure 21.1 Summary of Options for Change p486 of The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review – Full Report