|Photo credit: Shutterstock
|A research station monitoring polar ice
ITU participated in the World Climate Conference-3
(WCC-3) that took place in Geneva from 31 August
to 4 September 2009, under the theme of “Climate
prediction and information for decision-making”.
It was the third international conference to be organized
by the World Meteorological Organization
(WMO) on monitoring the Earth’s climate and how
it is changing.
WMO and its partners organized the first World
Climate Conference in 1979, as a result of which the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
was formed. In 1990, the second conference called
for the establishment of a climate convention, and
led to the creation of the Global Climate Observing
System (GCOS). And on 3 September 2009, at the
end of WCC-3, a Global Framework for Climate
Services was adopted by representatives of more
than 150 countries “to strengthen production, availability,
delivery and application of science-based climate
prediction and services”.
The framework’s development was supported
by the 1500 scientists who took part in the WCC-3
Expert Segment. They called for a strengthening of
five essential elements:
GCOS and all its components, encouraging exchange of, and access to, climate data.
The World Climate Research Programme, underpinned by adequate computing resources and increased interaction with other global climate research initiatives.
Climate services information systems, taking advantage of existing national and international arrangements.
User-interface mechanisms, focused on building linkages and integrating information between the providers and users of climate services.
Efficient and enduring capacity building through education, training and strengthened outreach and communication.
WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud spoke at
the High-Level Segment of the ITU Council meeting
in Geneva in 2008 and invited ITU to participate in
WCC-3, stressing how “traditionally, there has been
excellent cooperation between ITU and WMO”.
Addressing the conference, ITU Secretary-General
Hamadoun I. Touré stated that “at ITU we are
taking climate change very seriously indeed — and
continuously looking at ways in which we can contribute
towards better climate monitoring and use
of the positive benefits of information and communication
technologies (ICT) to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions.” He underlined that ITU’s involvement
goes back a long way — to the International
Radio Conference of Atlantic City in 1947, when ITU
Member States included the Meteorological Aids
Service (MetAids) in the Radio Regulations and allocated
the necessary radio-frequency spectrum for
“Successive ITU World Radiocommunication
Conferences (WRC) have taken into account WMO’s
need to ensure the availability and protection of
radio-frequency bands for observation tools such as
radiosondes, weather and wind profiler radars, and
space-borne infrared and microwave sounders,” Dr
Touré noted. And in recognition of the vital importance
of this field, WRC-07 allocated additional spectrum
for systems that are used for monitoring the
environment. In 2008, the ITU Radiocommunication
Study Groups initiated additional studies and developed
Recommendations on the further development
of remote-sensing applications, which should improve
the precision of monitoring and the prediction
of climate change.
The ITU/WMO Handbook “Use of Radio Spectrum
for Meteorology: Weather, Water and Climate
Monitoring and Prediction” is the most recent example
of cooperation between the two organizations,
which will hold their first seminar on this topic on 16–18 September 2009. “I am confident that ITU and
WMO will continue to work closely together, within
the context of the UN system, to ‘deliver as one’,
with a principal focus on ICT and climate change,”
said Dr Touré.
Delivering the Earth
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
addressed the conference, having recently returned
from a visit to the edge of the polar ice, north of the
Norwegian island of Svalbard. “I have just been in the
Arctic. I witnessed the sober reality of change with
my own eyes,” Mr Ban said, adding that “many of the
IPCC’s more distant scenarios are happening now,”
and urgent action is needed. “We have to deliver this
planet Earth to our succeeding generations so that
they can live in a more hospitable world and in an
environmentally sustainable way,” he said.
The UN Secretary-General described WCC-3 as
“a natural bridge for connecting science to the climate
negotiations in Copenhagen,” referring to
the 15th session of the Conference of Parties to
the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC), to be held in December 2009. The results
of WCC-3 will feed into the process leading up to the
meeting in Copenhagen. “Scientific knowledge must
be the basis for global climate policy, both for mitigation
and adaptation to inevitable climate impacts.
The Global Framework for Climate Services is an important
step toward strengthening the application
of climate science in local, regional, national and international
decision-making,” Mr Ban said. After the
conference, he visited ITU’s headquarters in Geneva.
|Photo credit: Shutterstock
|Environmental data from the skies
One example of the monitoring work coordinated
by WMO — and that makes full use of ICT
— is the programme it initiated called Aircraft
Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR). Essential
information can be gleaned in the region of the
Earth’s atmosphere where commercial aircraft
normally fly. Equipped with AMDAR, some 3000 of
these aircraft automatically gather environmental
data and stream it to users on the ground via satellite
or radio links. The system helps countries with
weather forecasting, climate prediction and early
warnings of natural disasters. AMDAR can capture
weather observations for places that lack ground-based
monitoring, as well as over the oceans. It
can also provide data in high resolution that help
to define critical atmospheric phenomena that are
not seen in detail by other systems.
In a keynote address at WCC-3, Rajendra Kumar
Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC that was co-winner of the
2007 Nobel Peace Prize, said that rising sea-levels are
inevitable and will threaten millions of people. “Given
that the inertia in the system will result in climate
change and its impacts, even if we reduced our emissions
to zero today, the global community has to address
the need for adaptation measures, particularly
in the most vulnerable regions of the world”, he said.
The Global Framework is a landmark instrument
for implementing those adaptation measures.
However, noted Mr Jarraud, work has only just begun
to establish a formalized system that ensures the
availability of user-friendly products for all sectors to
plan ahead in the face of changing climate conditions.
“Society will need information tools to adapt,
as the climate will continue to be variable and to
change, notwithstanding steps taken to reduce emissions
of greenhouse gases,” he said.