The VALUABLES Consortium is measuring the socioeconomic benefits that Earth observations provide when people use them to make specific decisions to manage water resources, health and air quality, climate change, wildfires, and more. To do this, we are conducting a series of impact assessments. These are rigorous, quantitative studies that investigate how people use improved information to make these decisions and quantify how these decisions improve socioeconomically-meaningful outcomes such as lives saved or resources conserved.
Popular in fields like international development, impact assessments quantify the changes that can be attributed to a particular intervention like a project, program, or policy. We are conducting impact assessments for specific satellite data applications using an approach called the value of information (VOI). The VOI method compares outcomes in two different states of the world: a state in which action is taken based on currently-available information and a different state in which action is taken using improved information. The difference in socioeconomically-meaningful outcomes between the two states represents the value of the information.
Our impact assessments include work that quantifies the value of using satellite data to:
- Inform post-wildfire response: The US Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team uses Landsat imagery to design cost-effective mitigation and recovery plans for the human and natural systems impacted by wildfire. Read the full working paper.
- Enforce air quality standards: Satellite data could be used to improve monitoring of county-level compliance with federal air quality standards and prioritize air pollution control activities that protect human health. Read the full working paper.
- Regulate air emissions from oil and gas development: Monitoring air quality using satellites can improve our understanding of the relationship between emissions from oil and gas development and infant health outcomes.
- Detect harmful algal blooms: Remote sensing can detect harmful algal blooms in recreational lakes and help managers take necessary steps to protect human health. Read the full journal article and the Resources article describing this work.
- Improve drought and river flow forecasts: Three-month soil moisture forecasts based on data from the GRACE satellites could be used to improve policy responses to drought and flooding.
- Improve predictability of corn and soybean prices: Satellite-based applications can reduce weather-related uncertainty that contributes to risk for agricultural commodity consumers and producers. Read the full working paper.
- Protect endangered species: The satellite data product WhaleWatch identifies more precisely where blue whales gather to feed in the Pacific Ocean and can inform decisions about routing ships to avoid these areas.
Working Paper — Jul 11, 2019
The Cost-Effectiveness of Satellite Earth Observations to Inform a Post-Wildfire Response
This study demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of using satellite imagery to assess burned areas and prioritize response measures after a wildfire; it shows that, by using Landsat imagery, federal agencies can save up to $7.7 million per year in post-fire costs.
Health and Air Quality
Working Paper — Sep 12, 2018
Using Satellite Data to Fill the Gaps in the US Air Pollution Monitoring Network
This paper uses new satellite data to assess fine particulate matter concentrations and finds that 24.4 million more Americans than previously thought live in counties that do not meet the annual health standard set under the Clean Air Act.
This section includes recent work and relevant work consortium experts conducted before the consortium was created.
Journal Article — Jun 18, 2020
Quantifying the Human Health Benefits of Using Satellite Information to Detect Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms and Manage Recreational Advisories in US Lakes
This article presents an impact framework to estimate the socioeconomic benefits of satellite remote sensing for detecting cyanoHABs and managing recreational advisories at freshwater lakes.
Journal Article — Nov 29, 2017
The Value of Remotely Sensed Information: The Case of a GRACE-Enhanced Drought Severity Index
This section includes relevant work consortium experts conducted before the consortium was created.
Methods and Techniques
The following studies from RFF experts advance the methods and analytical techniques to quantify the societal value of satellite information, providing a foundation for future VOI impact assessments.
Working Paper — Jun 27, 2019
Market-Based Methods for Monetizing Uncertainty Reduction: A Case Study
A market-based method to quantify the societal value of Soil Moisture Active Passive mission information.
Journal Article — May 20, 2019
Ice Sheet Contributions to Future Sea Level Rise from Structured Expert Judgment
Future sea level rise (SLR) poses serious threats to the viability of coastal communities but continues to be challenging to project using deterministic modeling approaches.
Journal Article — Mar 29, 2019
Monetizing the Value of Measurements of Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity Using the Social Cost of Carbon
This study shows how real options theory in combination with the social cost of carbon may help to calculate the value of information regarding equilibrium climate sensitivity and estimate the relative advantages of two different Earth Observing Systems.
Journal Article — Nov 5, 2018
Probabilistic reasoning about measurements of equilibrium climate sensitivity: combining disparate lines of evidence
Lacking the ability to evaluate the advice, public media striving for balance can unwittingly promote the idea that conflicting advice can simply be ignored. Behind this perspective is a lack of understanding among the general public about the role of disagreement in science.