Future Earth takes flight with inaugural scientific committee

Global sustainability research programme Future Earth has announced its inaugural science committee, with ESRC STEPS Centre director Melissa Leach serving as vice chair.

Future Earth is major 10-year international research programme which aims to provide the critical knowledge needed to address the challenges of global environmental change and to identify opportunities for a transition to global sustainability.

Dr Mark Stafford Smith, science director of CSIRO’s Climate Adaptation Flagship, Australia will chair the science committee with Professor Leach, director of the STEPS Centre and Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies in the UK and Belinda Reyers, a chief scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa, serving as vice chairs.

“In an era of unprecedented environment and development challenges, Future Earth offers the vital opportunity many of us have awaited: to take forward, at global scale, a new paradigm for interdisciplinary, engaged science that will genuinely help build pathways to sustainability, and wellbeing for those who are marginalised,” said Prof. Leach.

“I am delighted at the chance to bring engaged social science perspectives to this endeavour, and to work with a fantastic group of committee members and partners around the world to help make this vision a reality,” she added.

Future Earth was launched in June 2012, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). The 18-member science committee – the first Future Earth governance body to be appointed – will make recommendations on projects and priorities for research. It will oversee the transition of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) and Diversitas activities into Future Earth, secure strong partnership with the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) community and provide guidance on new activities for Future Earth.

The initiative seeks to answer fundamental questions about how and why the global environment is changing, what are likely future changes, what are risks and implications for human development and the diversity of life on Earth, and what the opportunities are to reduce risks and vulnerabilities, enhance resilience and innovation, and implement transformations to prosperous and equitable futures.

It aims to deliver highest quality science across natural and social sciences (including economic, legal and behavioural research), engineering and humanities. Its research will be co-designed and co-produced by academics, governments, business and civil society from across the world, encompassing bottom-up ideas.

Future Earth is jointly supported by the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the Belmont Forum of funding agencies, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Educational Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and UN University (UNU), with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as an observer.

Dr Stafford Smith said: “Future Earth is going to change the way we do science globally. It represents a unique opportunity to provide the research needed to address the biggest challenges of our time on global sustainability, and to do so in partnership with decision-makers.

“We’ve assembled an impressive and truly international team for this committee; we are all looking forward to continuing to develop the science agenda and global networks for this innovative programme,” he added.

This article was originally posted on the The Crossing.

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