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A View from the South

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