By Misbah Arif*
Global warming is not an environmental phenomena; it is a hotly contested policy issue. Climate change poses a fundamental security threat to the states, species and people’s livelihood worldwide. Sea levels are rising, oceans are becoming warmer, intense droughts threaten crops, and wild life. From polar bears in the Arctic to marine turtles off the coast of Africa, our ecosystem is at risk from the changing climate. Moreover, climate change and variations in precipitation patterns also affect agricultural production, exacerbating food shortages.
Food scarcity is an issue predicted to become one of the most important problems faced by the states in future. Likewise, dwindling fresh water resources has led many scholars to forecast inter-state ‘water-wars’ in not too distant future. It will be very difficult for policy makers to protect their residents from sea level increases, frequent and intense droughts, heavy rains, violent hurricanes and tornadoes.
These non-traditional security challenges merit urgent attention before they spiral out of control, posing a threat to the development and survival of states. To adequately address this crisis, we must urgently devise effective means and measures to deal with this imminent threat. In view of these developments, exploration of space is becoming an attractive venture for states in order to counter prevailing non-traditional security challenges. Satellite technology has become one of the fundamental sources of information in assessing, monitoring and mitigating natural disasters and related phenomena.
In recent years the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has conducted a variety of outreach, awareness raising and capacity building activities which have included climate change as a topic. The Office helps to link space and climate experts with decisions makers through workshops and symposium organized directly by the Office or co-organized with partners.
In this context, the first Franco-Chinese satellite was sent into orbit to study ocean surface winds and waves around the clock, better predict cyclones and improve scientists’ understanding of climate change. The 650-kilogram (1,430 pound) China-France Oceanography Satellite (CFOSAT) is the first satellite jointly built by China and France. The data will be collected and analyzed in both countries. The satellite is fitted with two radars: the French-made SWIM spectrometer, which will measure the direction and the wavelength of waves, and China’s SCAT scatterometer, which will analyze the force and direction of winds.
The CFSOSAT will allow scientists to collect information about winds and waves of the same location simultaneously for the first time. Likewise, it will help to predict dangerous cyclones and climate change by monitoring ocean’s surface winds and waves. Moreover, it will help increase the observation and prediction of catastrophic sea states, such as huge waves and tropical storms, and provide security support for offshore operations and engineering, ship navigation, fisheries, and coastal management.
Besides this, China and France are also working on various joint ventures in space. The two countries are working together on the Space Variable Objects Monitor (SVOM) mission, which will launch a satellite in 2021 to detect and study gamma-ray bursts. China and France already cooperate in space, with a French cardiovascular device aboard China’s Tiangong-2 space lab to monitor a crew’s hearts. France is also working with China on cooperating in exploration missions to the moon and Mars. China plans to have a crewed space station by 2022 and send a manned mission to the moon in the future.
Likewise, Japan’s space agency sent a rocket carrying a satellite that will monitor greenhouse gases. The satellite is officially named GOSAT-2, short for “greenhouse gases observing satellite-2”, and is intended to provide data that will help Japan create and publish “emission inventories” of the CO2 output of various countries.
Furthermore, Pakistan’s recently launched Remote Sensing Satellite-1 (PRSS-1) is also aimed at dealing with these non-traditional security threats. The Satellite is equipped with a high resolution optical payload that will enable Pakistan to meet its imagery requirements in the areas of land mapping, agriculture classification and assessment, urban and rural planning, environmental monitoring, natural disaster management and water resource management for socio-economic development of the country. Through recently launched PRSS-I, the environmental monitoring and management, covering all four environmental areas i.e. land, air, coast and marine would be accomplished.
Expanding and enhancing the information and knowledge base on climate change, as well as mapping vulnerabilities, can help create adaptive measures to reduce the effects of climate change. There is no doubt that the climate change threatens the long term national security of many countries as well as the overall stability of the world. If countries work together, help each other in solving the problems through co-operation, it will benefit, not to a single country but to the whole world. Space exploration is one of the best areas to invest in and is essential for humans as it has thousands of applications in technology. Likewise, it could lead to important new scientific discoveries.
*Misbah Arif, Islamabad based researcher and M.phil scholar from School of International Relations, Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad.