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Steven Chown

- insights from SCAR's President, Dr. Steven Chown

 
Dear Colleagues

Headline

In this View from the South, proposals are made to begin a process where, as part of our activities, SCAR implements a carbon management plan. Doing so will mean changing the way we facilitate science and provide advice through our full suite of activities to ensure we show leadership in reducing CO2 emissions in the timeframe required to limit global warming to below 2°C. Net zero for SCAR by 2030 is the aim.

The proposals made here are far reaching. They have been discussed with the SCAR Executive Committee and have broad support, though we have also agreed that much detailed work remains to be done to give effect to these ambitions.

We encourage the SCAR community to discuss these ideas widely. SCAR is a committee of all of its members and researchers, and requires that we all agree to change. SCAR is a facilitator of science and a provider of advice. What is at stake is how we make our arrangements to deliver our mandate, in keeping with global emissions reductions targets, rather than the mandate itself.


Background

At the 42nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting the Representatives of the Antarctic Treaty Parties thanked SCAR for its work through Resolution 7 of 2019, in which the Representatives recommended, inter alia, that their governments:

‘encourage the ATCM and the CEP to continue its cooperation with SCAR on issues related to the protection of the Antarctic environment, including, but not limited to, Antarctic biodiversity, area protection and management and the implications of climate change for Antarctica’.

The latter is especially significant in the context of the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/home/), from which the Summary for Policy Makers (https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/chapter/summary-for-policymakers/)

is essential reading for everyone. The report, and much recent research, makes clear the role of Antarctica in the Earth System and highlights that what happens in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions has global significance.

The extent of the climate crisis and the requirements for further research are highlighted throughout these works. In this regard, SCAR has an important leadership role, not only in the work we facilitate and the advice we provide, but also in how we go about it.

Thus, the question arises: 

How will SCAR continue to deliver its mandate of science facilitation and evidence-based advice while both reducing its emissions contributions and ensuring equality of access to opportunities for scientists from all programs and from all career stages (and especially for early career researchers)?


Current Status

As most of SCAR’s constituents will know, much of the annual budget allocated to our various groups goes to support meetings and travel to meetings. In other words, a substantial contribution goes to international airline travel.

No doubt exists about the value of face-to-face meetings for developing new science endeavours and for consolidating the outcomes of work that has been done. Likewise for providing advice. Yet at the same time, no doubt exists that we have little time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (especially CO2) to net zero.

Various proposals exist on how to make decisions about when to travel and when not to do so, and what alternatives to consider. One of the most useful earlier perspectives on this matter is one published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and available here in Open Access form:
https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:110794/ATTACHMENT01

Recently, as part of its Covering Climate Now participation, Nature published a piece by Hamant et al. offering a further set of advice, available here: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02747-6

Advances in meeting technology have also meant that meetings, even of quite large groups of participants, can be effectively held electronically, acknowledging that the challenges of a digital divide have not yet been fully overcome.

In a purely SCAR context, assessment of cash flow and spending in our groups makes clear a simple fact: many groups are electing to meet typically at one of SCAR’s larger meetings, and especially at the Open Science Conference. Chief Officers are regularly requesting that funds be retained for meetings at the Open Science Conference or at larger discipline-based SCAR meetings, or sometimes for gatherings in association with large meetings of other organisations such as those of AGU or EGU. Thus, we are already starting to reduce small group independent meetings.


Proposals for Consideration

The proposals being raised here for discussion, before we develop them into a plan to be discussed at the next Delegates meeting are, in summary form the following:

  1. The SCAR Executive will commence immediately with developing, in consultation with the community, a ‘whole-of-organisation’ carbon management plan with the aim of reaching net zero CO2 emissions for the organisation by 2030. As part of the plan, consultations should begin with organisations running meetings or coordinating research in similar areas to those covered by SCAR for ways in which numbers of meetings can be reduced by better planning and coordination. Likewise exploration of ways to reduce overall travel footprint by venue location decisions should be considered, bearing in mind the access inequality that then has to be addressed.

  2. With effect from 2021, all small (less than 50 participants), subsidiary group meetings should take place electronically. Travel to small group meetings that are not associated with the Open Science Conference or one of SCAR’s disciplinary meetings should not be supported, but support should be provided to ensure improvement of electronic meeting capability, bearing in mind equality requirements.

  3. With effect from 2022 at the latest, SCAR should reduce the overall number of in-person meetings we hold to the Open Science Conference in even years and only one, discipline-specific meeting every odd year, with Scientific Research Programs and Science Groups working out a schedule as to how best this be done. Ambitions for further change should be considered.

  4. All in-person meetings should with immediate effect make electronic live participation standard so that those who elect to forego travel entirely can nonetheless participate. Several benefits also accrue, such as wider participation (including for carers who cannot travel), acknowledging the trade-offs between late nights/early mornings and jet lag, and the challenges that remain from the digital divide.

  5. SCAR begins with immediate effect to pay offsets for its Fellowship programs and develops means to do so initially for Early Career Researcher Travel to meetings and later for all travel, and especially by encouraging support of such programs by all of its country Members.

  6. SCAR introduces as part of its arrangements the requirement that travel to meetings should be by alternatives to air travel, and especially public transport such as rail, wherever this is feasible.

  7. All meetings should run on a sustainable practise basis, as is already being planned for the SCAR Open Science Conference to be held in Hobart in 2020.

  8. The SCAR Executive explores the requirements for changing our Articles of Association to ensure that Delegates can participate electronically in Delegates’ meetings and that Science Group meetings which take some decisions by country vote can accept electronic participation too.


Way Forward

The SCAR Executive will develop matters in consultation with the community such that we have a firm set of proposals for the Delegates to provide advice on and make decisions about at the August 2020 Delegates meeting. 

In the meantime, several opportunities will present themselves for discussion. I recommend that as a community we commence a discussion now.

Should you wish to raise matters directly with the SCAR Executive after you have read this piece please do so by mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject line: ‘SCAR’s Carbon Management Plan’. We wish to keep a record of our discussions to help other organisations and to learn from them. Thus even if you elect to mail one of the SCAR Executive directly, please include the above address in your cc line.

National delegations and adhering bodies may wish to discuss these matters in their meetings too. Outcomes of the deliberations, where these can be shared, would be welcomed as submissions too, were these to be available prior to the formal SCAR Delegates meeting in 2020.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Australia)
SCAR President

on behalf of the SCAR Executive:
Dr M Ravichandran (India)
Dr Catherine Ritz (France)
Professor Jefferson Cardia Simões (Brazil)
Professor Gary Wilson (New Zealand)
Dr Chandrika Nath (SCAR Executive Director)

 

 
Dear Colleagues

With the end of the 2018/2019 Antarctic summer field season, we now approach the 42nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting. The meeting is especially significant because it marks the 60th Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty, signed in Washington, D.C. on December 1st, 1959.

SCAR will attend the Prague ATCM as an Observer, in keeping with its usual practice, offering science-based advice to the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) and to the Antarctic Treaty Parties, both as a consequence of information coming from SCAR’s activities, and in response to requests from the Parties to the Treaty, and the Members of the CEP.

Offering advice to the Antarctic Treaty System and to others, such as bodies of the United Nations, is one of SCAR’s primary roles, including as a body of the International Science Council, a major partner in the International Network for Government Science Advice.

SCAR’s other primary role is to facilitate research in, from and about Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. To give effect to this facilitation, SCAR is structured in a way that enables its Members and its participatory scientists to bring new ideas to the fore, and to decide how these will be supported. The structure, which at its heart consists of the flagship Scientific Research Programmes, Science Groups and their subsidiaries covering a range of disciplinary areas, and Standing Committees, has been in place since SCAR’s review in the early 2000s.

In 2018, the Delegates to SCAR requested that the Executive Committee of SCAR re-examine this structure, by way of a Structural Review, to determine whether the structure continues to serve the organisation, and to make recommendations for any changes at the 2020 meeting of Delegates. That process is now underway. A survey has gone out to the community as a whole. That survey is, however, not the only way SCAR’s Members (and thus the national adhering bodies to SCAR) may make contributions.

SCAR also invites direct written submissions to the Structural Review from National Delegates and ISC Union Member representatives to be addressed to me and mailed to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. These submissions should reach me by no later than 25th October 2019.

The Executive Committee of SCAR, and notably the Vice-President for Administration, Gary Wilson, will circulate a first draft of the Structural Review outcomes and proposals by March 2020 with opportunity for comment. A final draft of the proposals will then be circulated with the documents for the 2020 Delegates meeting.

That meeting will be held in Hobart, Australia. SCAR is delighted to be holding its Open Science Conference together with the meeting of the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs, and in a city that is host also to the Secretariats of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.

Details of the SCAR 2020 OSC are available at: https://www.scarcomnap2020.org/

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SCAR President
 


Dear Colleagues


As the close of 2018 approaches, SCAR concludes its 60th Anniversary Year. For SCAR, the year has been both productive, given the success of the Polar2018 meeting, and important.

The importance stems in particular from the release of the Special Report on 1.5°C warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the fact that the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate is now open for comment. The report has a dedicated Chapter on the Polar Regions. Register to comment here. Comments are due by mid-January 2019.

What has been less satisfactory about this year is the poor response from some sectors of society, especially elements of the global political leadership, to the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5°C. In turn, the lack of comprehension of the urgency of matters has stimulated a widespread reaction from civil society. SCAR has a responsibility to make sure that information from the Antarctic about the state of the system is made known as widely as possible. Doing so should be a matter of substantial concern to all of us, and will take a firm place in all SCAR’s future discussions.

SCAR will, of course, continue to make the implications of science from its members more broadly known. In particular, SCAR will continue to do so through the Antarctic Treaty System. As the Treaty itself approaches its 60th Anniversary, much opportunity exists to make known clearly the implications of the evidence coming from Antarctica about our changing Earth System. While climate change is featuring in the Antarctic Treaty System’s decision-making bodies, the evidence shows that the pace of response has to quicken. The window for decision-making to avert a very difficult global situation is closing fast. Indeed, new work published in Nature Geoscience by Leach and colleagues suggests that this window may be just one to three decades. At the lower limit, the window will close just as children born in this, SCAR’s 60th Anniversary year, reach their teens.

In terms of its own business practice, SCAR will commence a review of the carbon cost of its activities, with a view to reducing it substantially. The initial focus will be on the Executive Committee and Secretariat and then on the broader scope of our business. We will be seeking advice from our broader community as we do so. One of our practices as an Executive has been to travel away from the Cambridge Secretariat for our meetings. We will revisit this to determine where an optimal location might be in each year given the expected attendees, working with groups that have been developing optimality software for meeting-related carbon footprint reductions.

We will also continue to discuss these matters with our colleagues in COMNAP who have, for some time, been considering energy efficient solutions for science undertaken in the field and the logistics of supporting it.

In closing I’d like to recognise all of those who are away from home, undertaking and supporting the research that is so essential to our global human endeavour, and the sacrifices made by many families and friends ensuring that those in the field or laboratory have the opportunity to undertake their work.

With warm regards for the Antarctic field season and every success for 2019.

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SCAR President


Dear Colleagues,


Many of you will now be preparing for the Antarctic field season, after a productive conference one - at least as far as Polar2018 has been concerned. The meeting was widely attended, attracted much attention, and showcased an incredibly diverse range of science in, from and about Antarctica.

At the meeting, the SCAR Delegates elected to form a Standing Committee on the Humanities and Social Sciences to give further effect to the work being done by this diverse array of researchers. Several other Expert and Action Groups were formed. The Delegates also elected M (Ravi) Ravichandran (India), Catherine Ritz (France) and Gary Wilson (New Zealand) as Vice-Presidents for Capacity Building, Science, and Administration, respectively. Details of these developments can be found on the SCAR home page (www.scar.org)

The Delegates also requested the Executive to undertake a structural review of SCAR. Gary Wilson is responsible for the implementation and has developed a terms of reference in keeping with the views expressed by the Delegates. Gary will be raising several questions with the SCAR community and those with whom SCAR interacts frequently. The SCAR Secretariat will be managing this activity. Therefore, if you receive a request in this regard, you will know what the background to it is.

The SCAR Business Meetings also saw the establishment of three Scientific Research Programme Planning Groups. These are: Antarctic Ice Sheet Dynamics and Global Sea Level (led by Tim Naish), Near-Term Variability and Prediction of the Antarctic Climate Systems (led by Tom Bracegridle) and Integrated Science to Support Antarctic and Southern Ocean Conservation (led by Aleks Terauds). These programme planning groups are open to any SCAR members and the leads should be contacted for information on the groups and participation therein.

These focal research areas are especially significant in the context of the recently released Special Report on 1.5°C warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the report can be found here: http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/).

At Polar2018, we celebrated the award of the Tinker-Muse Prize to Mike Meredith. This was the tenth award of the Prize. The Tinker Foundation and SCAR have now announced separately (see the SCAR News page) that this was the last award to be made. SCAR is grateful, on behalf of the entire community, for the opportunities created through this award by the Tinker Foundation. The SCAR Executive is now exploring opportunities for a similar award for Antarctic researchers.

SCAR has also made some changes to the way it runs its fellowship schemes. Perhaps most visible is the transition of the Visiting Professor Scheme to a Visiting Scholar Scheme. That scheme is now calling for applications. SCAR receives considerable additional support from some Members for these fellowships and we recognise the significance of this support.

Finally, SCAR will attend the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources meetings to be held in Hobart shortly. We continue to recognise the importance of a strong working relationship between SCAR and CCAMLR.

Steven L Chown

SCAR President


Dear Colleagues,


We are now only a month away from Polar2018 (www.polar2018.org).

The meeting offers an extraordinary opportunity to explore polar research jointly from the Arctic and Antarctic perspectives. How the Polar Regions will change, what the global consequences of their change will be, and how local ecosystems and people will be affected, are profoundly important questions. The meeting will enable these and other fundamental research questions to be discussed in an interdisciplinary setting.

At Polar2018 we will also formally celebrate SCAR’s 60th Anniversary.

On Monday 18th June in the early evening, we will hold an Open Celebration to mark SCAR’s 60th anniversary. A small panel of SCAR-affiliated researchers will introduce the evening’s activities and we will then celebrate 60 years of science facilitation and advice.

On Wednesday 20th June, SCAR and the journals Nature and Nature Communications will hold a panel discussion and Q&A session entitled Polar Change and the Future of Society. The discussion will include an opening video message from HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, and a short presentation on ‘Choosing the Future of Antarctica’ by Steve Rintoul. It will take place between 18h30 and 20h00 and will be limited to 300 participants.

Details for both events will become available shortly, including an indication of how to register interest in the panel discussion.

Several helpful discussions are also taking place about the new suite of SCAR Scientific Research Programs (SRPs) that will commence in 2020. These have all been locally organised, such as the one by the United States Polar Research Board, and those at meetings I have attended in several countries. At Polar2018, community discussions open to all SCAR members will also be held, such as the SCAR-PAIS Futures meeting to be held on Wednesday 20th June (12.20 – 14.00).

Both in a previous View from the South, and on other occasions, such as at SCAR’s 60th Anniversary celebratory lunch at the XLI Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (https://www.scar.org/general-scar-news/60th-atcm/), I have indicated that there is much opportunity to develop substantial support for large interdisciplinary SRPs. Enthusiasm for these is growing in the community.

Most prominent among the ideas, and reflecting the SCAR Antarctic and Southern Ocean Horizon Scan outcomes (https://www.scar.org/about-us/horizon-scan/overview/), are: (i) understanding the biodiversity and functioning of marine and terrestrial biological systems and how to protect them; (ii) understanding ocean-cryosphere-atmosphere interactions, the behaviour of ice sheets and global sea level variation.

Polar2018 will provide a truly exceptional opportunity to discuss polar research and shape its future. I look forward to seeing you all in Davos in a month’s time.

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SCAR President