Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 357 - 359)



  Q357  Chairman: We welcome Matthew Stuttard, Professor Duncan Wingham and Professor Shaun Quegan. It is nice to see you all again and particularly you, Shaun. Last time we met was up in Sheffield. Could you introduce yourselves, please?

  Mr Stuttard: I am Chairman of the British Association of Remote Sensing Companies. That is the capacity in which I am here. That is not my job, though. It is a voluntary post.

  Professor Wingham: I am Head of Earth Sciences at University College London. I direct one of the NERC observation centres, CPOM, and I am the lead investigator on the CryoSat mission.

  Professor Quegan: I am the Director of one of the NERC centres for terrestrial carbon dynamics. I am a co-proposer of the proposed ESA Biomass mission.

  Q358  Adam Afriyie: There seems to have been quite a lot of criticism of the link between government departments' aspirations—or their hopes for—observation projects. I note that Professor Quegan has been particularly vocal on the subject and the National Physical Laboratory also. I think these are your words, Professor Quegan, that a clearer definition of common aims or aspirations for space data are required. First, what are the limitations and benefits of earth observation, before tackling some of those criticisms?

  Professor Quegan: That is a very big question. There is a whole range. One of the main areas is in environmental diagnosis and environmental monitoring. We are in a changing planet. The only way we are going to find out about that planet basically is from space. If you do not have that system in space, you can forget much of the planet realistically. There has to be that global scale. From that global scale spins down the requirements for people to know about things and to understand what is going on. It is the basis on which you make policy presumably and decisions about how you are going to manage the environment in which we are living. If you spin down to a local scale, there is a whole range of observations you can make which are relevant to the way people live their lives to do with; for example, hydrology, snow cover, and cover temperatures. That is all available from space.

  Q359  Adam Afriyie: Basically is it a very broad spectrum of earth information and of policy making objectives that can be met by observing earth from space?

  Professor Quegan: Yes.

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