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UNEP Briefing Note: Launch of the GEO Data Portal

The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) Data Portal was first initiated in October 2000 to provide a comprehensive, reliable and timely supply of data for the preparation of UNEP's GEO reports. Since then, it has matured into a unique data and information application which responds to the needs of the global environmental community for easy access to systematic and well-documented data on the environment, including the state of natural resources, as well as the societal driving forces and root causes of environmental change and degradation.

The GEO reporting process is based on sound empirical analysis and the contributions of a global network of partners. It thus requires having readily at hand - meaning, via the Internet and off-line - a wide range of statistical and geo-spatial data sets that meet as much as possible the following requirements:
- offering world-wide coverage, but with data at the national level;
- characterised by harmonised data values, collection units and definitions;
- available for every year since 1970 to coincide with the GEO "retrospective" period;
- freely and easily accessible to GEO contributors and broader user community; and
- offering aggregated values for the sub-regional, regional and global levels.

The GEO Data Portal was initiated to fulfill these purposes nearly two years ago, with the help of a great number of partner organisations. Since then, the Data Portal has evolved into a comprehensive on-line database with a state-of-the-art graphical user interface, for use by the GEO user community and beyond. It has effectively become the standard data reference and access tool for the GEO assessment process, both for UNEP and its reporting partners.

The GEO Data Portal now holds an ever-growing body of global environmental statistics and maps, now amounting to some 300 data sets in total. These can all be displayed, queried and explored on-line through maps, graphs and tables, and downloaded for further use if so desired. As the GEO reporting process is organised along regional lines (mainly continents) and sub-regions, national data sets have been aggregated to those levels. The source data have been obtained from a large number of recognised international sources, including UN and other affiliated inter-governmental organisations.

The contents of the GEO Data Portal are guided by the data strategy for the GEO process, and can be related to: (i) societal driving forces (economic development, population); (ii) environmental pressures (emissions, pollution); (iii) state-of-the-environment (air, land and water); and (iv) impacts on natural ecosystems and human health (biodiversity loss, diseases, life expectancy etc.). Thus, the Data Portal hosts data sets such as: population size and growth, educational enrollment, GDP per capita, land cover, CO2 and other green-house gas emissions, natural disasters and many, many more.

Apart from the basic service of making core data sets available to the GEO user community, additional functionality has been added to strengthen the analytical capacity of the network of GEO Collaborating Centres and other key partners. This includes the development of:
- Graphs to show and explore the evolution ('trend') of a variable over a given time period for a specific country or region;
- Histograms to highlight the absolute distribution of values for certain parts of the world;
- Extreme values for a given variable, by displaying the range of minimum and maximum values.

In addition, the new version of the GEO Data Portal - being launched together with the third GEO report on 22 May 2002 - offers all of the following to its many and varied users:
- a powerful search tool to query the database and select among the hundreds of variables;
- the possibility to select several years simultaneously;
- on-screen display of data values;
- export of the selected data sets in different formats (such as Excel, PDF etc.); and
- extensive documentation, following UNEP.Net descriptive meta-data standards.

The GEO Data Portal can be accessed at http://geodata.grid.unep.ch.

Questions about the GEO Data Portal can be addressed to UNEP/DEWA/GRID-Geneva at:

Ron Witt, DEWA Regional Coordinator~Europe "Ron.Witt@grid.unep.ch"
(for general questions on the GEO Data Portal);

Jaap van Woerden, GEO Data Coordinator "Woerden@grid.unep.ch" or
(for more specific questions on Data Portal contents) "Jaap.van.Woerden@rivm.nl"

Stefan Schwarzer, GEO Data Portal developer "Stefan.Schwarzer@grid.unep.ch"
(for application-related and/or "technical" issues).

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