Potential Impact

Contributions to standards

Technical and scientific standards and norms
For GEO systems, it is essential that standards will be developed, shared and implemented internationally. If full interoperability is not achieved the value of the earth observation investments will be significantly reduced. Therefore the economic and social benefits will only fully develop if within each of the nine areas interoperability is provided. This requires an assessment of the situation based on feedback from the main GEO implementation partners in respect of user share of standards, availability of proper encoders and decoders for international data exchange, of the status on developing standardized formats and procedures as well as of kind of procedures are feasible to save and manage archives. GEO-BENE will only to a limited extent develop standards itself but will make best use of standards developed in a multitude of initiatives. As the analysis and modelling have to take into consideration the status of interoperability, internal standards will be created only where no interoperability standards exist and where it is essential for GEO-BENE to compute data and run models. These will be freely shared for wider use.
Through publication from the project and direct involvement in a variety of standardisation processes such as C&I, GPG IPCC etc. it can be expected that GEO-BENE consortium partners will contribute to the formation of standards assessing land-based mitigation measures. In terms of the standards, it is worthwhile to mention the IPCC Good Practice Guidance, the IPCC Guidelines 2006, ISO standards and the INSPIRE initiative currently under preparation. One area where GEO-BENE will contribute is in the identification of areas with high benefit potential where interoperability standards are lacking and where their development would be most effective.
As GEO-BENE will further develop methods and tools beyond the state-of-art in benefit assessment, it will furthermore indirectly contribute to setting standards of benefit assessments for future more detailed benefit assessments, by contributing to the development of a standard methodology for countries, benefit areas or sectors to use in estimating the economic and social benefits. It is particularly envisaged to undertake efforts to standardize approaches and develop some prescriptive guidance for “Value of Information” analysts similar to existing guidelines for conducting cost-effectiveness analyses or cost-benefit analyses.

Contribution to policy developments

The prime goal of the GEO-BENE project is to make available methods and tools that will support the economic and social benefit assessment, in quantitative and qualitative terms, of the final objectives of the GEO initiative in the nine areas of the 10 year Implementation Plan. GEO-BENE results should thus deliver direct contributions to GEOSS related negotiations and agreements.
GEOSS follows the urgent need to achieve comprehensive, coordinated and sustained observations of the earth system highlighted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg 2002 (WSSD). In addition, improved monitoring of the state of the Earth, increased understanding of Earth processes, and enhanced prediction of the behaviour of the earth system will enhance mankind’s ambition to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals and those of the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS). GEO-BENE will also contribute to identify and quantify benefits with respect
to the enhancement of the implementation of international environmental treaty obligations (e.g. Declaration on Sustainable Development; the Convention on Combat Desertification; the Convention on Biological Diversity; the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the UN Forum on Forests; and the Marine Conventions)

Potential policy impact of the proposed project has multiple characteristics:

• Improved capacity to formulate policy strategies on local, national, European and global levels.
• Reduced uncertainty of negotiating, planning, executing, monitoring and evaluating policy regimes. Thereby, economic and societal efficiency gains can be expected and robust decision making in the respective policy areas will be facilitated.
• Integration of GEOSS information in a consistent and openly accessible decision making toolbox will facilitate increased stakeholder involvement, through a better dialogue between scientists and decision makers, and consequently allow for increased consistency of various policies. The use of spatial explicit databases allows us to reap the benefits from large EU and global investments in GEOSS technologies and will contribute to improved system specifications of Earth observation systems. Thus, GEO-BENE provides a coherent research base that aims at increasing integration of global and EU policies with global change policies both in the long- and short run.
• Assess the environmental and economic impact GEOSS by the deployment of a number of different “assessment technologies” including grid-scale computing, real option theory, large complex sector models.
The ability to manage environment-human interaction systems effectively and to contribute to the management of the global environment is of critical economic social and political importance. The capability for precise, reliable autonomous monitoring of the environment and human systems and their interaction is an essential precursor to effective management. Management of natural and human aspects of the earth system requires information that is both relevant and timely.
Despite efforts, the current situation with respect to the availability of Earth observations is far from satisfactory, particularly in terms of coordination and data sharing between countries, organizations and disciplines. This impedes meeting the needs of society and sustainable development. It creates huge cost for many users and society as a whole, as appropriate data are hard or costly to access, or are in a form that is difficult to interpret.
The prime contribution to solving societal problems by this study is by generating convincing qualitative and quantitative evidence for decision makers and demonstrating whether (and to what extent) the benefits from GEOSS fully justify its implementation. The results should be used to support decisions on the future direction of GEOSS development. Building a body of knowledge on detailed quantitative and qualitative benefits in a wide range of areas should enable to build a case for GEOSS towards targeted collective action to bring observing systems in line with the requirements for addressing a range of issues of concern to society. It and should help overcome some of the most pertinent issues of today’s situation. This includes insufficient exchange of data among agencies and countries, partly due to incompatible data policies, delays in data access and timely use of information that could save lives or minimize loss of property, the time lag between
collection of observations and dissemination and inadequate spatial and temporal coverage of observations in some and unnecessary redundancy in observation in other areas.
By assessing the benefits of GEO, GEO-BENE will be able to illustrate the synergies and possible trade-offs which will encourage international cooperation to achieve common strategies under GEO to respond to global change issues – in particular in the socio-economic domain. It is expected that benefits will be realised primarily in one of the following domains (to be validated by this study):
• Enhanced cost-effectiveness in collecting information due to known and quantified information on relative benefits amongst different options in key areas by policy, including optimisation of fragmented national data collection networks;
• More accurate decisions with respect to allocation of resources, determination of allowable practices and identification of policy targets; and increased coverage of areas where crucial benefits to society could be derived but reliable information is lacking;
• A wide range of intangible benefits, including increased knowledge basis for communication and information activities of GEOSS, reduced uncertainty on and enhanced trust in GEO related activities. Such policies should result in increased efficiency, the benefits of which can be reinvested in improving the availability and quality of information. In turn, the increased availability of information will stimulate innovation among information providers in the commercial sector.
GEO-BENE provides direct users with an improved knowledge base. However, the majority benefits will accrue to society as a whole or specific groups as indirect or social benefits. Through assessing benefits of GEO-related efforts to improve information, GEO-BENE aims to make a contribution to all those groups in society who are set to benefit from GEO. This comprises:
• Citizen – citizens can become better informed on the state and evolution of the global environment and on factors affecting their security, in turn adapting attitudes, expectations and behaviour. Information on potential benefits of GEO can also help ease citizen’s participation in the decision and management processes
• Public Sector - support public authorities at European, national, regional and local levels by providing decision-makers with an autonomous access to strategic information developed by GEO-BENE. A central hope for GEO-BENE, focusing as it does on benefits of spatial and environmental information, must be that, as a result, policy making as a whole and especially in the benefit areas assessed will be improved.
• Industry - support the planning and monitoring of operations and developments that impact their business and allow adapt their risk, information and business strategies accordingly
• Scientists - The research undertaken under GEO-BENE will furthermore contribute to strengthening the scientific and technological capacities on a global scale to undertake modeling of GEO-related aspects.
In sum, GEO-BENE should contribute to efforts designed to better manage the environment and human systems and their interactions and to progress towards a more sustainable development.

Risk assessment and related communication strategy

There are no direct risks for society associated with model building within the GEO-BENE project. However, there are a number of controversial issues associated with trade-offs between the measures within benefit areas. In particular, the sustainability of the implementation of such measures (e.g. fast growing biomass crops versus biodiversity, water, food security and ecosystems) will be scrutinized by the GEO-BENE project from a purely scientific point of view. In this respect our communication strategy is to clearly distinguish in our assessment between technological feasible, economically suitable and sustainability constraints respecting measures. As the GEO documents demand sustainable management of the earth system we will make particular reference to the need to respect issues such as nature reserves, biodiversity conservation, food security, sustainable forest management, renewable energy systems, clean air and water policy, management of natural catastrophes and sustainable rural development.