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How can geospatial data be used to combat climate change?
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How can geospatial data be used to combat climate change?

How can geospatial data help tackle climate change?


Globally, billions are being invested in climate mitigation measures. But how do we know if we are investing in the right areas, and how can you track the impact of these investments?

Digital technologies can help reduce global carbon emissions by up to 15% – one-third of the 50% reduction required by 2030 – through solutions in energy, manufacturing, agriculture and land use, Buildings, services, transportation and traffic management. These transformative technologies are combined with geospatial information to provide valuable insights for climate management.

Geospatial data is information describing the physical location of geographic features, their relationship to other features and associated statistical information – data insights that can help governments and businesses to adopt policies and mitigate risk to protect the future of our planet.

The new Net-Zero Standard – a Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), launched just before COP26 – provides a government-mandated framework for businesses to work towards Net Zero targets. The Net-Zero standard This is the first global initiative of its kind and will significantly impact the business landscape. To reach NetZero, we must work together, share data, monitor, adapt and take action.

Going forward there will be an even greater need for the evidence and insights that location data can provide – you can only manage what you can measure. Governments and businesses need accurate, detailed information that people can trust, and this is what geospatial data offers – precise, reliable data that can be used to track climate change and monitor the impact of measures used to combat it. OS’s vision is for us all to ‘see a better place’. They are the world’s leading geospatial service provider and provide location insights to improve both people’s lives and the planet.

Enabling renewable energy investment

It is vital to accurately identify areas where renewable energy plants could be built and where resources can be found. OS has identified three areas where geospatial could be helpful.

1) Mapping for coastal erosion

Natural changes are already taking place. Climate change is causing sea levels to rise and the possibility of coastal erosion. Our coastlines are constantly changing. Previously, seawalls were built as a way to manage the coast. With ever-increasing resources and costs, and more infrastructure being offshore like windfarms and floating windfarms – we need to be able to position the onshore supporting structures. This requires an understanding of coastal and sea level change.

OS has the expertise and map capabilities to assist with monitoring coastal erosion and adapting for change. Scotland The Dynamic CoastThis project used OS data and additional surveys to create new maps. These maps can be used to plan coastal change to build resilience and adapt for the pressures of climate and sea level rise. A detailed analysis using OS spatial data can be used to show how a coastline might change under a high-emission future as compared to a future with low emissions.

2) Mapping for low-carbon heat production

Geospatial data can be used to identify underground heat sources within green spaces and the best locations for ground source heat pumps. OS MasterMap Greenspace dataset in Scotland showed that 60% of Edinburgh is made up green space. Greenspace Scotland has identified these greenspaces as vital sources for clean energy production – places where low carbon heat can be harvested using ground source heat pumps and used to heat homes and businesses. To further reduce dependence on fossil fuels, every city can be mapped for green areas that are suitable to install ground source heat pump.

3) Sharing datasets

Collaboration is key to planning renewable energy efficiently, effectively, and effectively. The Energy Networks Association (ENA) is working with OS and 1Spatial to build an in-depth digital system map of the UK’s energy system which will include network assets, generators, and energy-intensive users. The digital system map, which is driven by decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation, is an important tool for energy network operators to serve their customers. It will help them develop faster, more efficient, and less expensive ways to deliver cleaner energy systems. This information will greatly improve investment decisions as well as help to create new connections for the energy network.

Donna Lyndsay, Innovation Lead at Ordnance Survey (OS), comments: “We want to leverage our geospatial data and expertise by fostering collaboration and encouraging the sharing of valuable insights. This will support strategic government policy and allow for effective implementation, while also enabling improved risk management in the commercial sector, delivering benefits and greater value to customers.”

Helping preserve our carbon sinks

Peatlands can be found in almost every country of the globe, covering about 3% of the planet’s total land surface. They are the largest natural carbon stores on land and store more carbon than any other vegetation. Over 80% of the UK’s peatlands have been degraded due to human activity, vastly decreasing their capacity for carbon storage. It would be possible for all UK peatlands to be restored, and the UK would achieve its net-zero goals by 2030.

Peatland was traditionally monitored from the ground. This required people to be present at a site. These methods are not practical and costly to scale. Satellite imagery offers a powerful and affordable alternative to monitoring the health of peatlands as it changes over time. Satellite imagery from several decades ago is also available for analysis.

Space4Climate members Assimila and Ordnance Survey worked together with Prof Fred Worrall, University of Durham and UK peatland managers to create a peatlands observatory. This observatory uses EO data to monitor peatlands, and to take measures to reduce carbon emissions. The team demonstrated that it was possible to monitor relative peat health in space by measuring brightness. Temperature and vegetation index.

To meet the climate emergency’s challenges, it is crucial to map the health of peatlands as well as assess the effectiveness of carbon sequestration and restoration projects. It will also help to track and enhance commercial strategies to offset carbon emissions through peatland restoration. This is the next step in the project.

Forests, which make up 31% of all land on Earth, also act as carbon sinks by absorbing large amounts carbon dioxide. The world has lost nearly 100 years worth of carbon dioxide in just over 100 years. As much forest as it has been in the past 9,000 years.

We remove large areas of carbon-dioxide absorbing forests and greatly reduce biodiversity when forests are cleared to make way for housing, industry, or agriculture. More than 100 world leaders committed to ending and reverse forest destruction by 2030 at COP26. More than 30 of the world’s biggest financial companies – including Aviva, Schroders and Axa – have also promised to end investment in activities linked to deforestation – and a £1.1bn fund will be established to protect the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest, in the Congo Basin.

Geospatial data can help to track deforestation and replanting and to monitor the health and condition of trees by providing data in an easy-to-access format. It can also help to assess the health of vegetation.

OS and Deimos Space UK collaborated with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre to create a state of the art machine-to-machine model that combines EO data with artificial intelligence to track and monitor the growth and health important vegetation like mangroves, palm trees, and mangroves.

Protect humanity against heat events

We know that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent around the globe. A recent study has shown that climate change is a major cause of extreme weather events. Globally, heat-related deaths account for 37% on average. Without taking action to stop climate change, the number of heat-related deaths will increase. The latest UK climate projections show a hot summer like 2018 is likely to occur every other year by 2050, by which time the number of heat-related deaths could more than triple from today’s level in the Lack of adaptation; between around 2,000 and around 7,000 per annum.

If current global warming levels continue, heat stress conditions could be faced by as many at 1.2 billion people in the world by 2100.

A new project, supported by the UK Space Agency will use satellite data to map heat in areas most at risk from climate change. This collaboration between OS (National Centre for Earth Observation) and NCEO will provide valuable insights for policymakers in order to manage the impact of climate change on hot spots across the UK. OS will help customers to understand and apply the NCEO land surface temperature data from space thermal infra red sensors.

Donna Lyndsay, Innovation Lead, Ordnance Survey, said: “By working collaboratively with the UK Space Agency and leading scientists, OS will use its mapping capabilities to identify areas at greatest risk from global warming using satellite data. The goal is to share the lessons learned from accessing the Earth observation data, so that governments and businesses globally have the evidence and meaningful insights to support resilience and adaptation plans in relation to climate crisis.

“Geospatial data is already supporting how we respond to climate change and contributing towards achieving net-zero. This project demonstrates how collaboration can deliver innovative and actionable solutions to help tackle the climate crisis and ensure we meet our sustainability goals.”

To ensure low heat profiles, future sustainable cities can be mapped. This can help to reduce the risk of both a heat and a health event occurring simultaneously, e.g. a future wildfire and pandemic, potentially saving lives.

Beth Greenaway, Head of Earth Observation and Climate at the UK Space Agency, said: “The UK Space Agency ensures UK Government investments in space science and technology deliver significant value to the UK economy and people’s lives. We work with industry and our leading scientists to develop new technologies, infrastructure and services, and to ensure the UK is leading the way in using space to monitor, understand and tackle climate change to support action.”


OS continues to work with other organizations to make EO data easier to access and more useful, while also saving time and money. Accurate geospatial information provides valuable insights that can be used as evidence to support decisions on how to adapt or mitigate climate change. This supports public services, and drives innovation.

Businesses and governments based in the UK, as well as those around the globe, have better access to location knowledge and valuable insights from organizations such the Ordnance Survey national mapping service. This allows them to monitor climate change resilience, and determine how effective the solutions are.

For more information and to see even more examples of how geospatial data can be used to tackle the climate crisis, read OS’s sustainability report and sustainability innovation trends report.

edie staff


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