Northrop Chief Urges Improved Data Exploitation on Climate Change

The next U.S. administration needs to better exploit the “ocean of data” available from Earth- and climate-sensing equipment to create actionable information, Northrop Grumman CEO Ron Sugar told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Dec. 5 for a discussion on climate change and security.

“It may be well time to take the next step, to create a higher-level structural mechanism, under government leadership, which builds on our scientific successes to date. What I’m calling for is for the new administration to undertake a national initiative to leverage those investments to provide broad access to decision-quality kind of knowledge,” Sugar said. “Here’s quite possibly the best opportunity for our nation and our next administration to demonstrate global leadership on the issue of climate change.”

Information sharing among the government agencies and institutions that collect climate data is key, Sugar said.

“We now record a tremendous amount of Earth-monitoring data from satellites, from sensors on aircraft, from balloons, from sensors deep within the oceans or buried underground,” he said. Yet, “we still suffer from an excess of data and a deficiency or deficit of knowledge. Currently, too much of the data generated by these many sensors are segregated from each other, as are too many of the world’s institutions that operate them.”

Northrop is already involved in one project to link Earth-sensing data. It is the prime contractor for the design, development and system integration of the National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which is planned for launch in 2013 and will be available to more than 120 nations for environmental forecasting.

The company has also voiced its support for another initiative, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), a multinational effort that would link thousands of individual sensors to monitor and forecast climate changes. That initiative is still in the early planning stages.

Climate change is related to Northrop’s main market, defense, because it’s a national security issue, and therefore a business opportunity, Sugar said.

“Climate change and the impacts of climate change are in fact an underlying security issue for the nation and the world,” Sugar said. “So if you think about the way we approach our marketplace, if you think about global security in its broadest context, and where can we take skills that we have and apply them there, and that’s why we have a lot of interest in this problem.”

Sugar said “a few percent” of Northrop’s revenue comes from climate-related work. “It could certainly grow. I think it all depends upon the need, and there is a need here.”

Sugar also talked about fossil fuel use in the military, but he was perhaps less optimistic about near-term progress.

“It’s a tough problem. The cost of operating with fossil fuels is high, when you think about steaming hours, flying hours,” he said. “The question is, what are the alternatives and how do you get alternatives that still give you strategic advantage? It’s not clear to me that in the near term, there are substantial, significant alternatives to the use of fossil fuels.”

Source Defensenews

Author: EARSC

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