The function of remote sensing in support of environmental policy

Jan de Leeuw, Y. Georgiadou, N. Kerle, Alfred de Gier, Yoshio Inoue, Jelle Ferwerda, Maarten Smies, Davaa Narantuya

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Limited awareness of environmental remote sensing’s potential ability to support environmental policy development constrains the technology’s utilization. This paper reviews the potential of earth observation from the perspective of environmental policy. A literature review of “remote sensing and policy” revealed that while the number of publications in this field increased almost twice as rapidly as that of remote sensing literature as a whole (15.3 versus 8.8% yr−1), there is apparently little academic interest in the societal contribution of environmental remote sensing. This is because none of the more than 300 peer reviewed papers described actual policy support. This paper describes and discusses the potential, actual support, and limitations of earth observation with respect to supporting the various stages of environmental policy development. Examples are given of the use of remote sensing in problem identification and policy formulation, policy implementation, and policy control and evaluation. While initially, remote sensing contributed primarily to the identification of environmental problems and policy implementation, more recently, interest expanded to applications in policy control and evaluation. The paper concludes that the potential of earth observation to control and evaluate, and thus assess the efficiency and effectiveness of policy, offers the possibility of strengthening governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1731-1750
JournalRemote sensing
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Governance
  • Remote sensing
  • METIS-273066
  • IR-86451
  • environment
  • Earth observation
  • Policy


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