Issue Brief

Climate Change and Policy Considerations: New Roles for Earth Science

Jan 12, 2009 | Molly K. Macauley

In a new issue brief, “Climate Change and Policy Considerations: New Roles for Earth Science,” RFF Senior Fellow Molly Macauley outlines the important role observations taken from space may have in designing global climate policy.

She writes, “Earth observations can serve as a basis for policy design by assisting in establishing baselines for emissions reductions and identifying what policy outcomes might be best measurable from the unique vantage point of space.” 

Macauley says that as policymakers work to design new strategies and metrics, Earth observation should receive serious consideration.  She identifies a range of areas where data collected from space could play an important role, including:

  • Quantifying CO2e (thus, greenhouse gases including CO2, N2O, CH4, HFCs, PFCs, SF6)
  • Observing other climate variables and proxies for them (e.g., land use, tree cover, freshwater quality and quantity, and ecosystem status)
  • Contributing to understanding effects of many types of mitigation policy
  • Informing assessment of overall effects (costs) to the economy, various sectors (e.g. electricity, transport, agriculture), demographic groups, and managers of environmental and other non-marketed natural resources
  • Observing unintended effects (e.g. reallocation of land to agricultural production and its effects on carbon sequestration)
  • Assessing effects of offsets
  • Assessing effects of possible banking regimes (by consistently observing policy effects over time)