Climate science budget under threatClimate science budget under threat

The Kopernikus programme is the world’s most intense environmental monitoring project. It plans to launch five satellites to measure several aspects of climate change, the first of which, Sentinel 1, is scheduled to enter into space in 2011. But, a likely financial pullout by the UK could severely affect the funding of the project.

The programme is run by a joint commission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and European member states and is costing more than a billion euros in total. The primary objective behind the Kopernikus programme is to offer European governments a comprehensive, coordinated system of observation and monitoring to more accurately report on the state of the earth’s health. This is ultimately intended to guide European environmental policy with better and more accurate data.

Among the more important climate change aspects Kopernikus is designed to inform about are deforestation, water level rise, wildfires, flooding, water runoff and coastal erosion, as well as Arctic sea ice levels.

But Kopernikus’ main feature is tying together all the data captured via earth monitoring both from space and ground. Scientists believe this is crucial to understanding how the climate is changing.

The main environment-monitoring satellite in existence, Envirosat, was due to come out of orbit last year and will not be replaced until 2019.

Concerns over the funding of Kopernikus came into light when it emerged that the UK is likely to cut part of the 128 million pounds, or 17 percent of the total cost of the project, it promised over a five-year period.

The decision has been met with backlash from the British scientific community and several MPs, most notably Colin Challen, who said that investing in the Kopernikus satellite, in addition to the UK’s climate hub, the Hadley Centre, is crucial to keeping Britain at the forefront of scientific research.

Other arguments against the drop in financing for the Kopernikus programme have centered around the likelihood that British industries would have been tabbed to construct the satellite, and a lack of British financing would limit British industrial input into Kopernikus.

The problems with financing came primarily as a result of task forces assigned with gathering the necessary cash having trouble locating it. The news came out at an All Party Parliamentary Committee on Climate Change meeting last month.

The final decision on the funding will be made later this month at a meeting of European leaders at The Hague.

Source ClimateChangeGroup

Author: EARSC

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