Press releases

Sunday 13 Dec 2009

The view from space showing the impact of global warming in a European Atlas of Environmental Change and Climate Communities

Copenhagen 13 December - The rapidly changing environment of parts of Europe is chronicled in a new atlas of change, launched today by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The significance of global warming and its alterations in Europe’s climate and economy are vividly depicted via ‘before-and-after’ satellite imagery. At the same time, the Atlas provides an important opportunity to show some positive environmental changes thanks to community initiatives on the ground, emphasising the importance of local action to combat climate change.

One of the 15 sites analysed was in Dedoplistskaro, eastern Georgia. The drying out of agricultural fields due partially to the destruction of previously existing windbreaks after the Communist era, along with real local changes (increased temperature and decreased precipitation in recent decades) is being countered by the replanting of saplings to restore the windbreaks and modified agricultural practices. The changes in the landscape can be seen in a pair of images taken nearly twenty years apart (1986 and 2009).

Based on UNEP’s concept of the “Atlas of our changing environment”, the images compiled here tell the stories: there are few more powerful ways of communicating about change happening on the earth’s surface and related problems to human well-being and economy, than the view from space showing vast changes taking place in various landscapes, accompanied by photos at ground level to illustrate what are the (frequently negative) impacts on ecosystems, human beings and their livelihoods; indeed, impacts that are literally changing peoples’ ways of living.

“Before and after satellite images provide scientifically provocative evidence of environmental change sweeping across the planet. Similar atlases have been produced by UNEP and partners for the globe, for Africa and for individual countries there. These products are already catalyzing debate and action. UNEP believes that the new atlas can do the same for Europe, providing a trigger for reflection, policy change and action among governments by framing the kind of discussion that a tower of documents can never hope to achieve", commented Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director.

The stories in the Atlas describe one site in detail for each of the 15 chosen countries. Where possible, the effects of the community initiatives are shown by satellite images over a longer period of time, supported by images showing environmentally-relevant land cover change in that country. A web application will be released which will allow users to interact with the information and give them the opportunity to access more underlying data. The European Space Agency, as well as SPOT-Image and the “Planet Action” Initiative, provided multi-temporal images for many of the scenes portrayed on the DVD.

To access the Atlas: http://environmental-atlas.cloudapp.net

On Sunday 13 December, the Atlas will be launched at a side event in Copenhagen in the presence of Dr. Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of EEA; Angela Cropper, Deputy Executive Director, UNEP and Dr. Volker Liebig, Director of Earth Observation, ESA .

The launch will take place at the Kongelige Theater (Stærekassen Tordenskjoldsgade 5

1017 Copenhagen - next to Royal Theater).

For more information please contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson and Head of Media, on Mobile: +41 795965737, or e-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

Sunday 13 Dec 2009
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