Information is the foundation of sustainable development and is fundamental
to successful planning and decision making. If decisions are made without
sound data and information, they will be little better than best guesses
and are likely to be wrong. Economic and social data are widely available
and are relatively reliable and well understood. The situation with environmental
data and information is somewhat different. High quality, comprehensive
and timely information on the environment remains a scarce resource, and
finding the 'right' information can pose problems: data are more difficult
and expensive to obtain. It is also difficult to find indicators that
capture and reflect the complexity of the environment and human vulnerability
to environmental change. Environmental data acquisition remains a basic
need in all countries.
Despite the problems, scientific consensus based on best available data
and knowledge, although sometimes partial and limited, has proved a powerful
tool for bringing environmental issues to international attention, and
prompting action. There have been great improvements in environmental
research and monitoring but it is important that these efforts are maintained
and improved to ensure a flow of timely and reliable information. A sub-set
of that information needs to underpin early warning in relation to disasters
and emerging issues, and to the factors underlying human vulnerability
to environmental change.
The provision of information will benefit from:
- Structured and nested monitoring and observing systems including global
satellites for collection of timely and reliable data on environmental
components, using harmonized units of measurement and terms.
- An effective, globally acceptable environmental information system
supported by a harmonized set of data, indicators and indices and closely
integrated with socio-economic information systems to provide basic
information for decision making.
- Maximizing the use of the Internet as a cheap and effective means
of information exchange worldwide.
- Identifying indicators and indices to capture the sustainability of
environmental trends as well as trends in human vulnerability to environmental
- Tools to create a knowledge base accessible to environmental policy
and decision makers.
- Presentation of complex data and information in an easily understandable
form to decision makers.