On 12 December 2015, in Paris, 195 countries, including the nations in the European Union, China, India, Brazil and the United States, adopted the first-ever universal action plan to put the world on track to limit global warming to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels. The Paris Agreement sends a clear economic signal for the global marketplace to invest in clean energy and advanced and reliable climate monitoring. And, although U.S. President Donald Trump has subsequently declared that the United States would withdraw from the Paris accord, the global response to that decision has tended to underscore the continued commitment of the rest of the signatories, and the fundamentally international character of issues related to climate and the environment.
As countries have signed onto the Paris Agreement and committed to specific emission reduction goals, attention has shifted toward how those goals will be met—and how progress will be measured. Precise and comprehensive sensing technologies are needed for countries to make more informed policy and economic decisions. Advancing technologies that strengthen and support global climate monitoring systems is critical to the new, low-carbon economy.
Beyond the Paris Agreement and other international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, pollutants, biohazards and industrial waste are all pressing environmental issues that require monitoring and measuring technologies. To meet these specific technological and scientific challenges, The Optical Society (OSA) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) are jointly sponsoring the Global Environmental Measurement and Monitoring (GEMM) Initiative, engaging universities, research centers, measurement standards agencies, companies, and other scientific societies around the world to form GEMM regional centers and provide a critical focal point for researchers, technology developers and policy makers. The GEMM website is under development.