Earth Observation for Sensible Climate Policy

Authors: Lori Garver, Dan Hammer, and Jason Kessler


The United States lacks the basic information and digital infrastructure required to effectively respond to the emerging climate crisis. While the science and technology needed for sensible climate policy exists, efforts to leverage these technical resources are fragmented and undirected. Actors in the most important sectors of the U.S. economy are making long-term investment decisions based on inaccurate or outdated data as a result. In the past 10 years, for example, homes worth over $11.2 billion have been built in areas that are at risk from sea-level rise. Insurance companies have paid over $25 billion in claims resulting from the 2017 wildfires in California. Better information on environmental impacts of climate change will make it possible to mitigate losses from wildfires, droughts, floods, and extreme weather events. Therefore, the next Administration should invest in Earth observation to directly measure environmental change and greenhouse gas emissions.

The next Administration should also invest in modern data and information technology infrastructure to effectively and efficiently respond to climate change. Such digital infrastructure will make it easier to integrate climate science into decision making. These investments will not only strengthen the domestic economy, but will also reposition the United States as a global leader on one of the most pressing “moonshots” of our time—basic measurements of humanity’s impact on our home planet.

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About the Authors

Lori Garver is the former Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and led the agency’s 2008-2009 transition team for the Obama-Biden Administration. . She has written extensively on space policy and is often interviewed about Earth observation and Federal technology initiatives.

Twitter: @lori_garver

Dan Hammer is a former Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, a former Presidential Innovation Fellow at NASA, a Fellow at National Geographic, and winner of the Pritzker Environmental Genius Prize, and Senior Advisor at Google X.

Twitter: @econohammer

Jason Kessler is a former Program Executive and Deputy Chief of Staff at NASA, and currently Senior Advisor at the Global Knowledge Initiative and Partnerships Director at the Frontier Development Lab.

Twitter: @soughin