NASA and ESA to team up to address climate emergency

14 Jul 2021

Image: © Blue Planet Studio/

To tackle the ‘all-hands-on-deck global challenge’ of the climate crisis, NASA and the ESA have agreed to synergise their research efforts.

NASA and the ESA have signed official documents signalling their continued cooperation to address the climate crisis by monitoring the Earth and its environments to drive research and an understanding of the planet’s processes.

The partnership was formalised yesterday (13 July) when ESA’s director general Josef Aschbacher and NASA’s administrator Bill Nelson signed a statement of intent.

ESA’s acting director of Earth Observation Programmes Toni Tolker-Nielsen highlighted the evident rising temperatures, rising sea levels, melting ice and thawing permafrost on planet Earth.

A collaboration between NASA and the ESA will allow for increased efforts in understanding these processes.

‘Space is the best vantage point to measure and monitor climate change, but joining forces is also key to tackling this global issue’

Through this new strategic partnership, the ESA and NASA will develop new ways to work together, coordinate their activities, cooperate on key strategic scientific and policy interests, and identify processes to work more efficiently and swiftly together.

“Climate change is an all-hands-on-deck global challenge that requires action – now. NASA and ESA are leading the way in space, building an unprecedented strategic partnership in Earth science,” said Nelson on behalf of NASA.

“This agreement will set the standard for future international collaboration, providing the information that is so essential for tackling the challenges posed by climate change and helping to answer and address the most pressing questions in Earth science for the benefit of the United States, Europe and the world.”

The ESA and NASA have a long history of working together. Teams from the space agencies collaborated on field campaigns in the Arctic to validate their respective CryoSat and ICESat missions.

There is also continued collaboration alongside other partners on the recently launched Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission, which aims to extend the long-term record of sea-level rise.

Both organisations already collect a vast amount of information relating to the Earth. The ESA gathers an estimated 20 terabytes of earth observation data per day through its Sentinel Satellite-1, Satellite-2 and Satellite-3 fleets.

These data include high-resolution optical imagery of agriculture, forests, land-use change, as well as sea surface topography, sea and land surface temperature, and ocean and land surface colour.

In May 2021, NASA announced its Earth System Observatory, which will design a new set of Earth-focused missions to provide key information to guide efforts related to climate change, disaster mitigation, fighting forest fires and improving real-time agricultural processes.

The Earth System Observatory project is also set to include worldwide collaboration. The Indian Space Research Organisation is cooperating with NASA to bring together two different kinds of radar systems that can measure changes in Earth’s surface by less than a half-inch.

On signing the collaboration with NASA, ESA’s Aschbacher noted: “Without doubt, space is the best vantage point to measure and monitor climate change, but joining forces is also key to tackling this global issue. This is why today’s agreement between our organisations is so crucial.”

Sam Cox was a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news