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Geospatial technology is a fundamental tool for mitigating climate change

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Geospatial technology/ PHOTO: Shutterstock
The climate on Earth has constantly fluctuated since the beginning of time. Normally, these fluctuations occurred over long periods of time; however, in recent decades we have been witnessing a much faster and more extreme climate change, partly due to human influence.

For this reason, the fight against climate change is crucial, as extreme weather events and ecological imbalances affect both people and the environment. In this battle, geospatial technology has emerged as a powerful weapon, providing valuable information to comprehensively understand how our environment is changing and how we can address climate change.

Consequences of Climate Change for Humanity

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Geospatial technology/ PHOTO: Shutterstock

The main negative impact of climate change on humans lies in food availability. Rising temperatures, reduced rainfall, and the corresponding water scarcity and other adverse weather events significantly affect crop production worldwide. While global food production is estimated to decrease by about 20% in the coming years, the world’s population continues to grow and is expected to approach 10 billion people by 2050.

The effect of climate change not only directly impacts crops, it also worsens soil conditions, eroding it and rendering it useless. Additionally, the forced displacement of wildlife can increase the risk of various pests in the fields. Both issues, either separately or combined, result in lower crop yields and rising prices, which compromise global food security, especially in less economically developed countries. This, in turn, could lead to waves of immigrants to developed countries or those with better agricultural conditions.

Fortunately, we are still in time to respond and prevent all these problems thanks to continuously advancing technology.

Geospatial Data to Mitigate Climate Change

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Geospatial technology/ PHOTO: Shutterstock

Monitoring agricultural crops has been another tool for farmers for years; however, many still do not use this kind of information in their farming. In some cases, it’s due to lack of knowledge or skepticism, in others, due to economic constraints or infrastructure.

The reality is that any crop monitoring system is a huge help in field management. Not only does it allow for remote observation, it also includes other technologies that can show the real state of the field, even if the details are not visible to the naked eye. Furthermore, these types of agricultural field monitoring systems allow measurement of changes over time, comparing actual data with reference data, to guide decision-making towards solving the most pressing problems and adopting sustainable practices.

Regarding climate change, techniques such as radar altimetry, Earth observation optical satellites, or LiDAR provide data on changes in land use, polar ice levels, water levels in terrestrial masses, etc. The value of their data largely depends on the accuracy of the labels and georeferencing. Hence the importance of geodata in understanding and combating the effects of climate change.

Case 1 – Climate Change and Agriculture

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Geospatial technology/ PHOTO: Shutterstock

As mentioned earlier, climatic instability is one of the biggest challenges faced by the agricultural sector. Each crop has its own optimal conditions (temperature, humidity level, nutrients, or amount of sunlight, among others), vital for its growth and reproduction. Any alteration in these parameters results in decreased yield, leading to lower quality and quantity of food.

In turn, CO2 emissions cause a warmer and more humid climate that affects the protein content of certain plants. Surprisingly, traditional agriculture is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions, hence the emphasis on adopting sustainable practices such as precision agriculture. The precise application of inputs, like fertilizers, allows crops to grow and achieve maximum yield without harming the environment as in the past. The indiscriminate and intensive use of chemical fertilizers, as was done in the past, leads to soil degradation, water pollution, and the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

In addition to resource optimization, precision agriculture software has other useful features, such as soil moisture monitoring, vegetation indices, or vegetation maps.

Case 2 – Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples

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Geospatial technology/ PHOTO: Shutterstock

The problems caused by climate change more severely impact those with fewer resources. This is the case for countries or tribes whose livelihoods are based on subsistence farming or animal herding. The deterioration and scarcity of certain natural resources put some indigenous communities in a precarious situation, forcing them to relocate to access basic resources, though this isn’t always feasible due to environmental factors or the presence of other communities perhaps not so inclined to share their resources.

In these cases, the use of geospatial data aims to map an area and its resources, so that a fair distribution of each element can be analyzed, clarifying any dispute that might arise. Typically, geospatial information is combined with the communities’ own on-the-ground data. The resulting maps can be used to ensure compliance with agreements or as a starting point for future changes.

Often, people tend to think of climate change as something abstract or that doesn’t directly affect us. The truth is that no one is safe from it, whether you live in a developed country or a developing one. The use of geospatial technology is aimed at trying to correct this issue and make the world a better place, because there is no planet B.

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