Nature rolls onto the sustainability bandwagon
March 21, 2012 5 Comments
Ever hear of Mark Stafford Smith, before? No? Neither had I until today. Evidently, he is the Co-Chair of the upcoming London confab, “Planet Under Pressure” – and he’s also “science director of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Climate Adaptation Flagship in Canberra”. This organization is more commonly known as CSIRO, definitely a “heavyweight” in the climate change game downunder, but not exactly a hotbed of impartial or objective “science” – although they would probably say otherwise!
Anyway, in today’s issue of Nature, Smith has a “Worldview Column” in which he sets forth his views on what needs to be done to cure the ills of the world; quite possibly providing some insight as to what we might expect as “outcomes” of the Planet Under Pressure conference, as well as Rio+20. Some excerpts:
Conventional environmental assessments are not enough — it is time for some joined-up global thinking
As the world heads towards the next big environmental summit — the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June — officials and politicians are calling for further assessments of our global ecological plight.
In January, for example, a panel on global sustainability set up by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon recommended a “periodic global sustainable development outlook report that brings together information and assessments currently dispersed across institutions and analyses them in an integrated way”.
[...] It is not clear that another conventional assessment will catalyse swifter action. So, although the research community should rally behind an integrated analysis, it must be done differently.
First, the focus must shift from documenting problems to supporting solutions. This requires strong and continual interaction between those working in strategic applied research and decision-makers in policy, industry and civil society, both on specific decisions (such as how to frame a particular trade agreement) and on the wider context (interactions between national well-being, environmental outcomes and economic flows).
Second, the process must promote responses at all scales, from national governments and regional groups to UN institutions. Appropriate solutions will differ from region to region, be they specific technologies for energy production or carbon sequestration, or analyses that jointly address water, energy and food.
Finally, the process must work across sectors, through simultaneous analysis of the impact of a migration policy on environmental and social well-being, for example. To do this comprehensively, the research must also become more integrated, encompassing natural and social sciences and the humanities to understand the implications of changes.
[he gives an approving nod to the IPCC and concludes:]
It is time to embrace a global innovation system to support better-coordinated and more nimble decision-making on global sustainability at all scales. Much work needs to be done on the details, but if science is to be genuinely useful to society, this is what we must fight for. [link and emphasis added -hro]
Translation: Forget about clearly documenting the “problem”, we need solutions and action now!