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 You are in: Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs > Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2003

The Earth Observation Summit

Donald L. Evans, U.S. Secretary of Commerce
Washington, DC
July 31, 2003

Released by the U.S. Department of Commerce

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you and good morning. Its a pleasure to welcome you to the Earth Observation Summit. I know many of you have traveled great distances. In my two years as Commerce Secretary, Ive visited 17 countries and over 20 states. I appreciate that travel is both rewarding and, at times, challenging. So I thank all of you for joining us today.

In June, 2001, President Bush committed to a science-based approach to resolving climate change issues. To forward this goal, he established several initiatives to promote climate science and clean energy technologies. This is an historic $4.5 billion effort.

One of the initiatives called for developing a strategic plan to coordinate climate research efforts and set priorities. I want to thank all those in the international community who worked with us on this. Last week we released the plan, which includes establishing an integrated global earth observing system.

I believe that we have an great opportunity here. We can make progress toward creating a truly global earth observation system. Many pieces of the infrastructure are already in place. New technologies are providing unprecedented views of changes occurring on Earth. The data obtained is invaluable. Its used to estimate crop yields, monitor water and air quality, improve airline safety and enhance weather predictions.

However, as you know, critical gaps in the earth-observing network remain. Because of this we do not have comprehensive and sustained real-time data on the state of the worlds atmosphere, land and oceans. We need sound science to make sound decisions affecting economic growth, the environment, and public health and safety.

The population is projected to nearly double to 12 billion people over the coming decades. This growth will bring increasing demands for food, clean water, energy and safe and healthy habitats and on our natural resources.

Friends, its time to close the gaps and move the earth observation system to the next level to benefit this generation and the next.

On a personal note, the value of an integrated observing system was evident to me two weeks ago when Hurricane Claudette struck my home state of Texas. Two people lost their lives. But 100 years ago, before we were able to track storms and issue warnings, an un-named hurricane hit the state killing over 8,000 people.

More accurate hurricane watches and warning help save lives. They help save property. In the United States, they have prevented nearly $2 billion in yearly damage costs.

In the United States, nearly one third of our gross domestic product is climate and weather sensitive. Some $2.7 trillion is at risk in industries such as agriculture, transportation, tourism, construction and insurance.

In fact, a new financial industry seasonal weather derivatives saw exchanges double from $2 billion to $4 billion between 1998 and 2001. Its now at $7 billion.

The annual economic return to the U.S. economy of the El Nino ocean observing and forecast system an international effort is between 13 and 26 percent.

In pure economic terms, reports indicate that national institutions that provide weather, climate and water services to their citizens contribute some $20 - $40 billion each year to their national economies.

Clearly there are social and economic benefits to linking thousands of individual technological assets into one comprehensive data-generating earth observation system.

However, theres yet a third reason for taking this next step: advancing earth science. We know a lot, but we need to know more about the ecosystem-based processes that define our world. Sir Isaac Newton wrote of the great ocean of truth that lay all undiscovered.

There is the power in the room to begin a journey that will connect our world in ways that will help protect our environment and grow our economies for generations to come. We look forward to working with you.

Again, thank you for coming.

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