BETWEEN COVID-19 AND CLIMATE CHANGE Charles C. Osuagwu writes that

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opportunity beckons on the office of the surveyor-general to make a giant leap in digital dynamic maps

Currently the impact of climate change on the environmental resources of nations could be likened to the rampaging effect of COVID-19 on both the economies and social lives of nations. Just as COVID-19 is changing the way we’re used to living and creating new normal, climate change is equally causing seasonal changes that are upturning and fiercely disrupting the ecosystem/eco balance which impacts is affecting the way we live.

Recently, July 15th, 2020, former Vice President of United States and a co-Nobel Laurette, Mr Al Gore, Gavin McCormick of WattTime and a host of others expanded their continued engagement with climate change challenges with the launching of climate TRACE; “Today, we are honoured to announce that a powerful new tool will soon be joining the climate fight. Along with us — Al Gore and Gavin McCormick of WattTime — we join leading organizations Blue Sky Analytics, Carbon Plan, Carbon Tracker, Earthrise Alliance, Hudson Carbon, Hypervine, OceanMind, and Rocky Mountain Institute as founding members to unveil Climate TRACE, a coalition creating a high-tech solution to independently detect emissions and where they’re coming from, everywhere in the world, in real time. It’s a feat that’s never before been possible — until now”. This sounds familiar but similar to “Contact Tracing” of index cases of COVID-19. Now what is Climate TRACE and where do we (OSGoF) come in as Nigeria’s foremost mapping agency?

“Climate TRACE — which stands for Tracking Real-time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions — comprises organizations from the tech sector that have pioneered some of the most-powerful software-based emissions-monitoring solutions in the world, in part using artificial intelligence (AI) and remote sensing. As the climate crisis deepens and our technology advances, we felt the time was ripe to join together and put these resources to work in powerful new ways. Our first-of-its-kind global coalition will leverage advanced AI, satellite image processing, machine learning, and land-and sea-based sensors to do what was previously thought to be nearly impossible: monitor Green House Gas emissions from every sector and in every part of the world. Our work will be extremely granular in focus — down to specific power plants, ships, factories, and more. Our goal is to actively track and verify all significant human-caused GHG emissions worldwide with unprecedented levels of detail and speed”. How can we leverage on this new global coalition to further deliver on our mandate?

Recently, the Surveyor General of the Federation, Mr Samuel Adeniran Taiwo was on one of Nigeria’s national television stations where he eloquently presented the important part the Office of the Surveyor General of the federation has continued to play in publishing up- to- date map of the real time COVID-19 situation in Nigeria. This intervention is exploring the windows of opportunity presented by this emerging Global coalition “Climate TRACE” in expanding the frontiers of services provided by the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation (OSGoF). To track the defaulters or significant human-caused GHG emissions in Nigeria to the unprecedented details and speed as envisioned by the coalition is a job already cut out for OSGoF. The combination of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) are tools that will ensure that such details are achieved while the desired speed and details also will be assured by the deployment of AI in survey drones equipped with Global Navigational Satellite Systems (GNSS) equipment.

In the deployment of GNSS equipment that is capable of capturing and tracking satellites that simultaneously beam on all the systems available, GPS (USA), GLONASS (Russia), Galileo (EU), BeiDou (China), QZSS (Japan) and IRNSS or NavIC (India), issues associated with satellite geometry (high PDop) are eliminated for good while accuracy and reliability are greatly enhanced to sub centimetre. The system ensures that the twin targets of the Climate TRACE, speed and detail is achieved effortlessly as is also required in contact tracing as both, of essence, must be ascribed spatial attributes to make any sense. It becomes imperative therefore that the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation keys into this coalition early enough as a key player having been fully equipped to deliver on the desired objectives of the partnership.

This window of opportunity presents OSGoF the leverage to implement the complete digitalization of its products and services as being championed by the Office of Head of Service. OSGoF has over the years significantly upgraded its facilities to deliver digital maps from the analogue paper ones in trying to meet the dictates of a demand- driven geospatial industry market. However, to meet the particular needs of Climate Trace and in fact the current needs of the geospatial industry, it must take another giant step by upscaling its activities; her maps cannot just be digital, it must be dynamic or intelligent. To be able to go “down to specific power plants, ships, factories, and more and actively track and verify all significant human-caused GHG emissions worldwide with unprecedented levels of detail and speed in real time then our methods of data capture must continue to change and adapt to meet the changing times. The efforts of the Surveyor General in this direction is highly commendable and must be encouraged and sustained. There’s really nothing new being advocated here but rather this intervention is only speaking to the need for us to refocus our attention and deploy the tools already in our arsenal in line with the vision of the SG.

In capturing data in order to meet the needs of dynamic mapping, both spatial and non-spatial attributes must begin to be acquired and geospatial database created to populate the database centre. This window will deliver flexibility to our products and OSGoF will be satisfying the immediate and future needs of the society if it expands its frontiers along the suggested lines and will become a major player in the geospatial world while delivering enhanced products and services that meets the needs of a demand-driven geospatial market as envisioned by the Climate TRACE coalition. Therefore, between Covid-19 and Climate Change, the opportunity beckons on the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation to make the giant leap from digital static maps to digital dynamic ones.

Osuagwu is Ag. Director Planning, Research and Documentation at OSGoF, Abuja