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GMES makes us see more

Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard's speech at the conference "GMES in action" 4 June in Copenhagen.

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Dear Guests. Welcome to Copenhagen. It is a pleasure to be with you here today.

I want to start by talking about a great European. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was one of the most influential writers and poets in European history. But Goethe was much more than a writer and a poet. He was also an acknowledged natural scientist. He published several works on plant morphology and colour theory. And by the time of his death, 180 years ago, he had collected 17.800 rock samples.

If anyone, Goethe understood the importance of reliable information and data and he formulated this in a very fitting and simple manner.

"Man sieht nur dass, was man weiß."


"You only see what you know."

GMES makes us see more

The methods for collection data and information may have changed somewhat since the time of Goethe but his statement is still valid.

The more we know, the more we see.

The Global monitoring for Environment and Security enhances our knowledge. It is a vital data research infrastructure in Europe. With its complex setup, GMES gets its data from various sources. From observation satellites and "in situ" systems such as ground stations, airborne and sea-borne sensors.

But what really makes GMES unique is the coupling of this data – often in real time.

Goethe would have been proud. Because this gives us an entirely new perspective.

It helps us to understand our planet. How its climate is changing. And how this will affect our future lives.

GMES makes us see more – on land, at sea and in the air.

Let me give you an example. It is estimated that we will experience an average sea level rise of one meter until the year 2100 as a result of global warming. This is very relevant information for many countries, including Denmark. Our coastline stretches for more than 7000 kilometres – we are surrounded by water – and at the same time, our country is flat as a pancake. Therefore even a small sea level rise would have significant impact on the Danish landscape and the people who live in it.

With the help of GMES data we can track the sea levels developments. We can foresee which coastal regions will be especially exposed. We can start preparing for this before it is too late.

But the data can also lead us to new opportunities. It can help us predict, when new shipping routes will open up. Shipping routes that can reduce costs and carbon. In other words, the GMES gives us very valuable glimpses of the future.

Set data free

As the example shows, the primary users of the GMES will be public policy-makers and public bodies for environmental matters.

But the access will not be limited to these users. In principle, GMES will be accessible to any citizen. I strongly support this principle.

Imagine that people who are allergic to pollen can obtain real-time information on the pollen developments in their exact area. They will know how much medication is needed. If they should avoid certain areas and so forth.

Or imagine that farmers can obtain information about pollution developments so that they may protect their crops.

But not only can GMES data improve everyday life for many people, it can also lead to new business models.

The Commission estimates that the market value of the public data within the EU is close to 27 billion Euros. That is truly an impressive amount.

If we can provide access to the GMES data, and data in general, I am convinced that new ideas will flourish among tireless citizens and innovative companies.

This does not mean that there should be full access to all data. But one should be conscious about the potential that the access to public data holds. Besides encouraging entrepreneurship it opens up new forms of public and private partnerships. And these are good prospects in time of limited economic growth.

Profits require investments

As mentioned earlier, GMES provides us with insights of a changing planet. It does this with a global perspective and this is the right path to choose.

The rising sea level, melting ice caps, drought and more chaotic weather – all these phenomenon are not contained by country borders. We need global answers to these global challenges. Therefore, countries need to work together when it comes to creating new research infrastructure.

Allow me to give you an example of this. In the coming years, one of the world's largest and most advanced research facilities will be built in the Øresund region – the European Spallation Source – as a truly European project.

The ESS is a partnership of 17 European Nations. They are committed to collectively building and operating the world's largest facility for research using neutrons.

Simply speaking, the ESS is a giant and very advanced microscope that can be used for example to study new materials for superconductors, windmills, fuel cells and how medicine works. It enables us to see more – just like GMES.

Denmark and Sweden have entered into an agreement to jointly host the ESS. The agreement involves the ESS facility being
established in the outskirts of Lund, just on the other side of the Øresund. And the ESS Data and Software Center will be located on the Danish side of the Øresund – on the North Campus of the University of Copenhagen.

The construction of the ESS will start next year and become operational in 2025.

The ESS underlines to things about research infrastructure:

  • we need to work together
  • and we need longterm planning and funding

This is also definitely true for GMES. If we are to harvest the full potential of GMES we need to ensure longterm funding. I think we can all agree on this.

GMES helps us to understand our planet

I would finally like to return to Goethe words of wisdom: "You only see what you know."

Because GMES enhances our knowledge and makes us see more of our planet. GMES will in short pull information and provide us with a comprehensive picture of the "health" of the Earth.

GMES helps us to understand our planet. And that is a solid foundation on which to take action.

I wish you all a constructive and fruitful conference and I look forward to hearing the conclusions.

Thank you very much.

last modified Feb 10, 2013