Tackling Climate Change Digitally: Destination Earth Initiative Launched

DestinE is a key element of EU action against and in the face of the looming climate catastrophe (Photo © Unsplash)

On 31 March, the EU Commission, together with a number of partners, launched the so-called Destination Earth (DestinE) initiative.

Its aim is to create a unique digital model of the Earth and better enable the EU to monitor and model environmental changes, predict extreme events and adapt its actions and policies to climate-related challenges.

Making our future more predictable and calculable with the help of digital technologies – this is the goal pursued by the European DestinE initiative. With 2021 being the fifth warmest year on record globally and climate change causing at least €12.5 billion in economic damage in Europe between 2010 and 2019, DestinE intends to provide evidence-based support to policymakers in developing EU climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. It aims to improve weather and climate simulations and adapt them to current technology.

The European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) will progressively develop the DestinE system by establishing a core platform that will host digital replicas of Earth systems and natural phenomena. These so-called digital twins will be fed with huge amounts of data until they are able to simulate all processes taking place on our Earth today and in the future in a virtual model.

“This initiative is a clear example that we cannot fight climate change without digital technologies”, says Margrethe Vestager, the Commission’s Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age. By the end of 2024, the DestinE system will consist of a digital twin on weather-related and geophysical hazards and a second twin on climate change adaptation. Additionally, a core service platform operated by ESA will provide decision-making tools, applications, and services, based on an open, flexible, and secure cloud-based computing system and a so-called data lake will supply storage and access to the datasets.

The first digital services will be offered by DestinE from 2024. These will first be made available to professional users from the public sector and then to scientists, the private sector, and the general public. The data can then be used, for example, by urban planners to simulate how groundwater levels will change, by reinsurers, or even by fire brigades, civil protection teams, or farmers to assess the risks of extreme weather events, while politicians will be able to better assess the impact and effectiveness of environmental regulation proposals.

The services will be further developed and expanded over the course of the programme. By 2027, the existing DestinE system will be further improved and additional digital twins and related services will be integrated. The ultimate goal is then the “full” digital replica of the Earth by 2030.

Synergies will be created with other EU programmes such as Copernicus and the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking, and links will be established with related national initiatives. DestinE is thus a key element of EU action against and in the face of the looming climate catastrophe, the progress of which is of crucial importance to each and every one of us.

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