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The UK House of Commons Energy and Climate Change committee has produced a report on its inquiry on the IPCC 5th Assessment WG1 contribution (physical science).
The inquiry concluded that WG1's message - that greenhouse gas release from deforestation and fossil fuel use has caused much of the climate change of the late 20th Century and will continue to drive warming if unabated - was "the best available summary of the prevailing scientific opinion on climate change currently available to policy-makers. Its conclusions have been reached with high statistical confidence by a working group made up of many of the world’s leading climate scientists drawing on areas of well-understood science. The overall thrust and conclusions of the report are widely supported in the scientific community and its summaries are presented in a way that is persuasive to the lay reader. As in all areas of science that involve highly complex dynamic systems, there are uncertainties. But these uncertainties do not blur the overwhelmingly clear picture of a climate system changing as a result of human influence."
The inquiry said that IPCC had responded well to criticism and had tightened its review processes to make AR5 "the most exhaustive and heavily scrutinised Assessment Report to date". However, the committee suggested an increase in the level of transparency by involving non-climate scientists as observers through the whole process. The committee said that "the thousands of peer-reviewed academic papers ...together form a clear and unambiguous picture of a climate that is being dangerously destabilised".
The UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee produced a report in July 2014 on DEFRA's National Pollinator Strategy. The National Pollinator Strategy has been in draft and a consultation has recently been completed - finalization is planned for later in the year. The EAC conducted an earlier 2013 inquiry on Pollinators and Pesticides - part of a series of UK policy activities looking at pollinator impacts.
The inquiry on the National Pollinator Strategy makes the following key points:
- Defra's plans for research on the role and value of pollinators, and the impacts of pesticides, are welcome. A national monitoring framework is a good idea - a clear baseline will be an important first step.
- The involvement of industry funding for critical research is a possible difficulty. Independence of research is essential - with peer review and publication of results.
- Schemes within UK implementation of the EU Common Agricultural policy must support and protect pollinators - this must be included in forthcoming review.
- The final National Pollinator Strategy must give a clear view of what Integrated Pest Management involves, and ensure that interpretation of IPM reflects
- best practice elsewhere
- Public engagement in protecting pollinators is a good thing, including pollinator-friendly
- There is disagreement with the UK government of interpreting and possibly weakening the "precautionary principle" by including economic considerations.
- The UK should, in the strategy, accept the European risk assessments underpinning the neonicotinoid ban and will "neither seek to end it when a European review is conducted in 2015 nor otherwise circumvent it".
The UK Government Office for Science, headed by Sir Mark Walport, has published its 2014 annual report. It covers the functions of the office, including the key workstreams for 2013-14:
- science, big data, analytics and the City [of London] - creating a new alignment [use of big data in finance]
- opening up scientific research data [G8 and open data]
- Alan Turing Institute [UK research capabilities in data science]
- Climate change; science and communication [there was also a House of Commons committee report on this in 2013]
- Chief Scientific Adviser's forthcoming report on innovation, risk and regulation
- horizon scanning [there was another parliamentary committee report on this as well]
- foresight - manufacturing, city futures, demographic change, ageing society, computer trading in financial markets, and migration and global environmental change.
UNEP produces an annual overview of the global environment - the UNEP Yearbook 2014 is now published as pdf and ebook. It covers a selection of issues:
- Excess nitrogen in the envrionment
- Combatting (re-)emerging infectious diseases
- Fish and shellfish farming
- Illegal wildlife trade
- Methane hydrates
- Realizing the potential of Citizen science
- Air pollution
- Plastic debris in the ocean
- Securing Soil carbon benefits
- Rapid changes in the Arctic
UNEP-WCMC has announced (June 2014) publication of a report on Using criteria to strengthen biodiversity considerations: Recommendations for the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and an accompanying policy brief Addressing climate change: Why biodiversity matters. The key messages of the policy brief are:
- Climate change mitigation and adaptation can be supported by biodiversity conservation actions, enabling the permanence of mitigation and adaptation efforts.
- Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation undermines the supply of ecosystem services vital for mitigation and adaptation.
- Adaptation and mitigation actions that do not consider the role of, and potential impacts on, biodiversity can have adverse consequences; therefore, such impacts must be assessed, and measures put in place to address them.
- Application of biodiversity criteria and safeguards to climate change interventions can enhance the benefits and minimise the risks for biodiversity without jeopardising mitigation or adaptation objectives.
- Multiple international agreements and national processes relevant to climate change and biodiversity should be implemented in ways that are coordinated, mutually supportive and enhance synergies.
FAO has announced publication of the first State of the World's Forest Genetic Resources, linked to the Global Plan of Action for Forest Genetic Resources. Key messages of the State report are:
- Access to information and knowledge on FGR needs to be improved
- Economic value is the main factor in setting management priorities
- Half of the forest species reported by countries are threatened
- 8,000 forest species are used and one-third of them actively managed
- Species distribution maps are vital, but rarely available
- Most species are conserved in situ, in naturally regenerated and planted forests
- Effective ex situ conservation programmes are restricted to limited species and populations
- Tree improvement greatly enhances productivity and offers potential for adaptation to changing climate
- Emerging technology opens new avenues in FGR management and conservation
- Policies and institutional frameworks are insufficient
And what needs to be done:
- Improve the availability of, and access to, information on FGR
- Enhance in situ and ex situ conservation of FGR
- Improve sustainable use and management of FGR
- Strengthen policies and institutional capacity
OECD has launched (April 2014) a website giving information on Managing Pesticide Risk to Pollinators, covering the nature of risks, mitigation by various means, and information on the range of law and regulation employed in different OECD countries.
The Royal Society has produced a Vision for Science and Mathematics Education (June 2014), laying out a future for the UK. Key aspects of the vision are:
- All young people study mathematics and science up to the age of 18 - it is recommended that a broad curriculum for all studying to 18 should include science and maths.
- Curricula and their assessment are stabilised and support excellent teaching and learning - curriculum and assessment in the UK should be stabilised to provide quality and coherence.
- Teachers have high professional status and there is a strong supply of science and mathematics specialists - widen access to teaching and expand the role of STEM professionals in recognising professionalism in teaching
- Students understand the significance of STEM through better careers awareness and guidance - investment in large-scale, national programmes for engagement.
- The success of students, teachers and education systems is judged through appropriate and broadly based assessment and accountability measures - increased role of teacher assessment of students in qualifications, broader school assessment measures that reflect high quality STEM education.
- Education policy and practice are better informed by evidence - better collaboration and communication between education researchers, scientists and mathematicians, teaching professionals, policy-makers and the public.
The Global Ocean Commission is an independent organization that was initiated by the Pew Charitable Trust, with membership comprising influential policy-makers, business people and lawyers.
It has published a final report (June 2014) From Decline to Recovery: a Rescue Package for the Global Ocean on its website Mission Ocean. This briefly reviews current ocean governance and priority issues, together with drivers of ocean decline. The main body of the report is eight proposals for recovery:
- UN Sustainable Development Goal for the ocean - putting a healthy living ocean at the heart of development
- Governing the high seas - promoting care and recovery
- No more overfishing - ending harmful high seas subsidies
- Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing - closing seas, ports and markets
- Plastics - keeping them out of the ocean
- Offshore oil and gas - establishing binding international safety standards and liability
- Global ocean accountability board - monitoring progress toward a healthy ocean
- Creating a high seas regeneration zone