Countries Agree to Form Earth Observation Framework

Delegates from 44 nations and 26 international groups agreed this weekend to form a global environmental observation system by 2014, to be called — in what we can only assume is a tribute to Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” — the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS. Officials attending the Earth Observation Summit in Tokyo said that standardized measurements from satellites, buoys, and weather balloons around the world will help people predict meteorological phenomena like El Nino, understand and respond to outbreaks of disease like West Nile, and make better crop-planting decisions. The conference statement said that developed nations need to help developing nations, who have the most to gain from better forecasting, work to establish methods and standards of measurement. The agreement, which is not legally binding, will be pursued further at a summit in Brussels next February.