Climate change is an outcome of changes of several environmental phenomena which include bio-geo-chemical cycles, ecosystems, water resources, resource utilisation, continued atmospheric pollution and the overall economic, political and social implications.
These changes are partly human induced, though very little is known about societal impacts on climate change.
It is, therefore, important to know how much these phenomena have changed and the magnitude of their impact on climate in a particular area such as Malawi. SuchÃ‚Â information would help in facilitatingÃ‚Â the formulation ofÃ‚Â remedial actions.
It has to be appreciated that these contributing phenomena of climate change are geospatial in nature and are so complex that they require rigorous tools and methodologies to efficiently and effectively acquire data, synthesise, analyse, manage and model their possible impactsÃ¢â‚¬â€thanks to scientific innovations in the name of geospatial technologies. This technology has proved to have measurably assisted professionals to provide answers to environmental questions.
Geospatial technology is a specialised information technology that encompasses global navigation satellite system (GNSS), satellite-based and airborne remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS).
GNSSÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s are vital for providing positional information both for mapping directly and for giving the position of other sensor platforms, for example, air craft, satellite and the like, whereas remote sensing methods have made available digital remote sensing data (both satellite and airborne images and digital elevation data from laser and synthetic aperture radar systems scanners).
On the other hand,Ã‚Â GIS offers tools for spatial data entry, storage, analysis, presentation and dissemination. GIS also facilitates the integration of geospatial and attribute data from different sources and time stamps. The spatial data integration and analysis tools in GIS present capabilities of generating new information which can help planners and decision makers in making informed decisions.
In the case of climate change, geospatial technologies can aid in climate change studies, prediction of climate and climate-related risks such as drought, floods and disease outbreaks, among others. These technologies can also facilitate in developing information systems for managing natural resources, hazards and environment.
Geospatial information (GI) resulting from GIS analyses can assist planners in the selection of mitigation measures and in implementation of emergency preparedness and response action. The GI can also be used in providing sector-based advisories and alerts in the form of e-mails, text messages, fax and so on. For example, farmers can be informed about weather and possible agricultural practices, people living in flood-prone areas can be warned of an impending flood.
In his paper Ecosocialism for a Better World, Professor Dr. F.J. Radermacher acknowledges that geospatial technologies and ICT have a significant role to play in addressing global challenges. He explains that geospatial science and technologies shape peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s understanding of the world as a wonderful but fragile entity whereas ICT developments contribute greatly in connecting people, information transfer and sharing, among others.
Malawi has made some strides in ICT uptake but is still lagging behind in exploiting geospatial technologies. Government and its development partners should give more support to departments and ministries responsible for geospatial data acquisition, environment management, meteorology and other stakeholders to harness geospatial technologies.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology should also provide more support to tertiary education institutions that are developing human resources in geospatial science and technology by making available more resources for procurement of equipment (GPS sets, computers and relevant software) if the country is to come up with more effective mitigation and adaptation measures for climate change. –The author is a lecturer in geomatics at the University of Malawi, Polytechnic.