Apr. 20, 2004 Forty-seven countries and the European Commission are set to convene in Tokyo for a groundbreaking Earth Observation Summit, a milestone effort to collaborate globally on making people and economies healthier and safer around the globe. Hosted by the Government of Japan, the summit will take place on April 25 at the Hotel Okura. The summit will build upon efforts to revolutionize our understanding of Earth and how it works. Improving our international monitoring system will yield more complete, accurate and accessible data and information to users and decision-makers.
“The summit will set us on a path to take the pulse of the planet,” said Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt, who will lead the U.S. delegation. “The system will provide us with the tools to protect people, the planet and prosperity.”
The U.S. delegation will include Dr. John H. Marburger, the president’s science adviser, and Retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Lautenbacher is one of four co-chairs of the Group on Earth Observations. Other co-chairs are Dr. Achilleas Mitsos, director general for research, European Commission; Mr. Akio Yuki, deputy minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, Japan; and Dr. Rob Adam, director-general of the department of science and technology, South Africa.
Scheduled close to Earth Day (April 22), an historic framework for a 10-year implementation plan will be presented for adoption at the Ministerial-level summit. “The new network will yield the potential for such breakthrough achievements as telling us what next year’s winter weather will be like; indicating where the next outbreaks of West Nile, malaria and other infectious diseases will hit; and, in the U.S. alone, saving at least $1 billion yearly in energy costs, among innumerable other vital benefits worldwide,” Lautenbacher said.
Right now many thousands of individual technological resources are paying off around the globe, in estimating crop yields, monitoring water and air quality, and improving airline safety. U.S. farmers gain about $15 of value for each $1 spent on weather forecasting. Knowledge used to alter plant decisions has been estimated at $265-$300 million annually. The annual economic return to the U.S. of NOAA's El Niño ocean observing and forecast system is between 13 percent and 26 percent. As compared to the 1982-1983 El Niño, there was a $1.1 billion decrease in storm losses in California alone during the 1997-1998 El Niño. A significant portion of these savings is attributed to heightened preparedness.
The goal of a linked global system is to finally understand how forces in one part of the globe will affect nearby and distant regions.
The summit in Tokyo fulfills a commitment made last year by the G-8, builds on the first Earth Observation Summit hosted by the United States last July, and will feed directly into the G-8 meeting in June in Georgia, all of which underscore Earth observations as a priority action item.
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