Earth System Information and Common Concerns of Humanity


Rapid environmental changes evident in the Earth’s polar regions and in many other parts of the world underscore the urgent need to improve understanding, monitoring, and prediction of global climate changes and related environmental stresses, as well as to initiate actions to mitigate or reduce vulnerabilities to future changes. Unfortunately, although such changes and actions may have serious implications for all humanity, widespread sharing of important Earth system data and information is not yet a reality. An intergovernmental initiative, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), is now working to establish both the institutional and technical capability to share vital Earth system data and information widely, through the development of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS). A critical issue is how to implement the agreed GEOSS Data Sharing Principles, which call for full and open access to data but allow for potentially important exceptions that could diminish the value of the overall system. It is therefore also important to explore alternative approaches to data sharing and access. For example, the Antarctic Treaty provides a valuable precedent for international cooperation in scientific research and data access that could form the foundation for new data sharing approaches. Specifically, an international group of polar science and data management organizations is working to develop a Polar Information Commons (PIC), aimed at creating a shared virtual resource that would not only facilitate access to diverse types of polar data, but also provide a long-term framework for data preservation and stewardship.



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Professor Oran Young Professor, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California Santa Barbara and Chair of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change, United States


Professor Armel Kerrest Head, Department of Public Law, University of Western Brittany, France
Dr. Robert Chen Director, Center for International Earth System Information Network at Columbia University; Secretary General, Committee on Data for Science and Technology, United States
Rüdiger Wolfrum Director, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law and Former President, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Germany


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