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.
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
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.
Welcome to the second of my Views from the South.
Over the past several months, SCAR has seen a great deal of activity, from the Biology Symposium in Leuven, Belgium to the #GreatAntarcticClimateHack in La Jolla, California. Many groups have also been busy planning for their meetings next year in Davos and Polar2018 has seen Abstract submissions open and close.
I have had the opportunity to take part in several of the activities. I attended the Biology Symposium, the Past Antarctic Ice Sheet Dynamics Conference in Trieste, Italy, and the IX Congreso Latin Americano De Ciencia Antartica in Punta Arenas, Chile. The range, depth and quality of the science has been impressive to listen to and be part of. The exceptional organisational arrangements and the focus on ensuring attendance by a wide variety of scientists from all career stages was notable across all of these meetings.
A key message that struck me from the meetings is that appreciation of the importance, for the rest of the planet, of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, and science in, from, and about these regions, is steadily growing. The same message emerged at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in China, and is not far from centre stage in the news. Understanding the history of ice sheets, their interactions with the ocean, atmosphere and life, and how this knowledge will improve forecasting of what is to come, especially with regard to sea level rise, are undeniably among the most compelling Antarctic questions of our time.
In recognition thereof, I have been encouraging those considering the preparation of a new generation of Scientific Research Programmes (SRP), to think about a Programme that would address this very question. The elements of this integration are visible everywhere now – in SERCE, PAIS, AntClim21, AntEco and AnT-ERA – and many of the conversations at meetings have been about integration of these elements.
Such a single new programme would not be the only new SCAR SRP, but it should be central to the SCAR scientific focus for the coming decade. Such a focus would provide a firm foundation for SCAR to leverage additional support for this scientific work. An argument about the most compelling question of our time is a difficult one to ignore.
A variety of other SRP proposals are in the design process. Overall, however, I think it of great value to reduce the total number and increase the support to each SRP. The six to date have been immensely successful, though with the continual message that with more support, more would have been achieved.
Discussions about the new SRPs and how these can best serve the entire SCAR community, especially recognising and accommodating the variety among SCAR’s membership in terms of interests, capability, and resourcing, should be underway among all the SCAR groups, but especially among the current SRP and Group Chief Officers, and those who might be developing new SRP proposals.
To facilitate such discussion, the Secretariat will be establishing a means to do so and especially in preparation for Polar2018 in Davos. Indeed, to give effect to preparing for the SCAR Open Science Conference and Delegates meeting in 2018, and taking account of the Executive Director vacancy in the Secretariat, I have engaged the services of Mahlon (Chuck) Kennicutt II as a Special Consultant for the next seven months. Chuck will assist the Executive Committee and Secretariat with preparation for the SCAR portion of the Polar2018 meeting, and will provide some assistance to the Standing Committee on the Antarctic Treaty System too.
As many of you will appreciate, the Secretariat has been exceptionally busy, especially with the departure of the Executive Director and the launch of the new web page (a production which is thanks to the Secretariat and especially to Jenny Baeseman). Eoghan Griffin and Rosemary Nash have been doing a fabulous job of managing all of our business. Thanks to them for their indefatigable enthusiasm. We had promised additional office assistance, but that has been held back until the new Executive Director is in place.
The Executive Director position has now been advertised (see "SCAR seeks Executive Director") and the final date for applications is 29th November 2017. The position has benefitted not only from an increase in annual remuneration, but also from several changes in the Secretariat that have been brought into effect. I would encourage you to draw the attention of any suitable candidates to the position. The Executive have agreed a timeline such that we hope to be in a position to make an offer to a new Executive Director by the end of January 2018.
Finally, I would like to remind you all that this coming austral summer will mark SCAR’s 60th Anniversary (https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954102017000426), which we have elected to celebrate as a community at Polar2018. Announcements about events at the meeting will be made over the next few months. Nonetheless, plenty of scope exists for you to celebrate this event in your groups, during your expeditions, and within your organisations. We have already received several suggestions to date and are keen to hear of more and to do what we can to support them.
The date of the first meeting of the Special Committee on Antarctic Research (as it was first named) was 3-6 February 1958. Thus, we will consider Monday 5th February 2018 SCAR’s official 60th Birthday. We will, however, celebrate the 60th anniversary in various ways throughout the year, in keeping with the significance of the anniversary. The Secretariat is working on developing merchandise to support events – all suggestions are welcome and simply send these on to Rosemary, Eoghan or myself.
In closing, I wish everyone a safe and successful Antarctic field season.
Steven L Chown
- Contributed by: Steven L Chown, Jenny Baeseman, Azizan bin Abu Samah, Karin Lochte, Jerónimo López-Martínez, Jefferson C Simões, Terry Wilson
In 1957, the International Council of Scientific Unions (now the International Council for Science, ICSU) invited 12 nations active in Antarctic research each to send a delegate to a Special Committee on Antarctic Research. The Committee held its first meeting at The Hague early in 1958.
SCAR will turn 60 in this coming (2017-2018) Antarctic season.
Over these 60 years, SCAR (now the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) has continued to facilitate scientific research in, from and about the Antarctic and Southern Ocean region and to provide evidence-based scientific advice to a range of bodies. How it has done so, and how it has had to change in concert with a changing world is in part the subject of a recent history1. The challenges lying further ahead for the region scientifically, and in the realm of research support, have also been comprehensively examined2-4. We set out in brief here what SCAR’s immediate future plans are in the context of
the new Strategic Plan5
Given its role as a subsidiary body of ICSU, SCAR will continue to advance, facilitate and promote scientific research in, from and about Antarctica. Several developments will significantly influence these undertakings.
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