Thanks to the 1992 Earth Summit and other United Nations initiatives, the topic of the environment now plays a much larger part in the global political agenda. No person, country or region exists in a vacuum. Science makes clear that harmful changes to the environment will eventually impact us all.
Various initiatives are being undertaken at the national, regional and global level to encourage co-operation and monitor action on environmental issues.
Major issues of environmental degradation are being confronted including global warming, the thinning of the ozone layer, sea level rises, desertification and water and air quality.
Informing decision makers
Scientists need as much information as possible about these and other topics if they are to provide policy makers with the information needed to make informed decisions on environmental policy.
Long-term monitoring of our planet from space helps assess the environmental effects of human activities on a systematic basis, and provides an extensive time series of data for the projection of current environmental trends into the future.
Supporting international treaties
Earth observation also provides an objective means for governments and international bodies to assess whether parties to environmental agreements are fulfilling their obligations.
As part of its contribution to the Copernicus programme with the European Commission, ESA is developing a family of satellites, called Sentinels, in support to new space-based services to monitor international agreements on marine pollution, wetlands conservation, fighting desertification and reducing carbon emissions.
Environmental change has the potential to cause more frequent extreme weather events and natural disasters. As a founder member of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, ESA offers its satellite capabilities to civil protection authorities preparing for or responding to such events.