The fact that human-induced change in the make-up of the air is leading inexorably to higher global temperatures is a settled matter of scientific fact. What remains to be settled is the likely future extent of climate change, and what collective strategy should be undertaken to follow Kyoto.
Since 6 December delegates from almost 200 countries have been gathered in the Argentinean capital to discuss this problem: how to mitigate climate change, and how to adapt. This event is the latest in a sequence of annual gatherings, known as the Tenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 10).
With Kyoto on the verge of becoming effective, countries that have ratified the Protocol - and therefore having committed themselves to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases - have been discussing and negotiating the details of what information should be required to report to show compliance.
ESA began working with Kyoto parties on using space resources within this area back in 2001, within its TESEO (Treaty Enforcement Services Using Earth Observation) initiative. The Agency now has seven European countries as active users in two dedicated Earth Observation-based projects, Kyoto Inventory and Forest Monitoring.
Under the terms of Kyoto, signatories are allowed to compensate for carbon dioxide emissions by stocking carbon in so-called 'sinks', of which forests are the most significant.