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Published: September 4, 2007

Global Warming only one Symptom of Planet Earth Under Pressure

Press release |

Scientists, policymakers and businesses to discuss coordinated response to global environmental change. (Stockholm, Sweden)

Global warming is just one of the many symptoms exhibited by a planet under pressure from human activities. Other environmental changes—such as ocean acidification and land degradation—are also occurring globally, threatening to irreversibly alter our planet, with serious political, economic and societal implications.

Prominent scientists, policy makers and representatives from the private sector will gather at a two-day symposium on 17 and 18 September in Stockholm at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to explore cooperative ways for the three sectors to address issues of global environmental change.

The symposium, “Earth System Science and Society: 20 Years of IGBP Research, Future Perspectives”, marks the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), which has been hosted by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences at their headquarters in Stockholm since 1987. The meeting is meant to encourage dialogue between major stakeholders to address political and societal questions related to global environmental change, and to recognize the considerable contributions by Sweden to the international, interdisciplinary environmental research efforts coordinated by IGBP.

The symposium will look in retrospect at successful multi-sector environmental actions, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Montreal Protocol. It will also look at environmental issues that will likely be of major importance in the coming decades, such as air quality and climate, ocean acidification and renewable energy. Attendees will also discuss issues related to adaptation strategies and sustainable development.

A media briefing with panellists from the symposium, representing the science, policy-making and private sectors, will be held on Monday, 17 September 2007, from 17.00 to 17.30 at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Please contact Mary Ann Williams, IGBP’s science communicator, at 08-673-9562 or maryann@igbp.kva.se for more information and to register for the briefing.

Panellists at the media briefing will be available to discuss the following global environmental change issues: Global climate change and the IPCC: With the release of its Fourth Assessment Report, the IPCC continues its nearly twenty years of climate change research synthesis. Debate about the causes of climate change, and indeed whether climate change is really happening, has swirled around each release of an IPCC report. How has the science behind the reports evolved over the past 20 years? What influence has IPCC had on policy and the private sector? How is climate research applied in policy and private-sector decision making?

The ozone hole and the Montreal Protocol: Kofi Annan has described the Montreal Protocol as "Perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date.” Since it opened for signature in 1987, 191 nations have committed to phasing out production of ozone-depleting substances. How did scientists come to a consensus about the causes of the ozone hole? What convinced industry to cooperate? How did policy makers respond to the scientific evidence and manage to create such an unprecedented act of international cooperation?

Land use change in the tropics: Economic growth is driving rapid land use change in the tropics, raising concerns about the effects on other parts of the Earth system. What have scientists learned about these effects? What policies have aggravated or abated these changes? What role has industry played? What can all three sectors learn from the consequences of previous similar changes in the northern hemisphere?

Iron fertilization of the oceans: Cultivating phytoplankton by fertilizing parts of the oceans with iron may appear to present a possible response to global warming. The idea is to add iron to parts of the ocean lacking the nutrient in order to promote phytoplankton growth that would draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, many scientists now consider the efficiency of this process to be too low to be an effective sequestration option, even if there were no other larger scale effects. What role should policy makers take in governing such geo-engineering projects? What role should private industry play?

Air quality and climate: Air quality and climate change, although closely related issues, are largely researched and legislated separately. In addition, although there are many regulations in place for urban and regional air quality, there is little on the same level to address climate change. As legislation comes into place to address public concerns on air quality and climate change, how can researchers, policy makers, and industry unify air quality and climate change research, policy and management?

Ocean acidification: Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the ocean has absorbed approximately 48% of the anthropogenic CO2 released to the atmosphere, significantly reducing its impact on climate change. However, this valuable service comes at a steep ecological cost: the acidification of the ocean. How marine ecosystems, coral reefs, and fisheries will respond to this rapid acidification is unknown – but ocean acidification could well be a global “tipping point”, sending the oceans into a very different state. What roles can science, industry and policy take in addressing the problem?

Consequences of renewable energy: Renewable energies produced by sustainable methods can help us combat global warming and other problems associated with fossil fuels. As with conventional energy production, there are environmental issues to be considered. What are some of the Earth System-level scientific concerns of renewable energy use? How will policy makers make choices about which renewable technologies to use? What are the opportunities for the private sector?

Adaptation and sustainable development: To build a sustainable world requires cooperation between the developed and the developing world to achieve a level of sustainability that the Brundtland Report describes as “ensuring socially responsible economic development while protecting the resource base and the environment for the benefit of future generations.” How can the science, policy and private sectors work together to make this happen, both locally and globally?

Media Briefing
Monday, 17 September 2007, 17.00 – 17.30
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Contact: Mary Ann Williams, IGBP
maryann@igbp.kva.se; 08 673 9562

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