This blogpost is a statement from Magdalena Skipper, the Editor in Chief of Nature, in response to Our Planet, Our Future, an Urgent Call for Action issued at the 2021 Nobel Prize Summit.
The summit brought together Nobel Prize laureates, experts, policymakers, teachers, students for dialogue and questions about how humankind’s future on Earth will be achieved and shaped. Following the Summit, Nobel Laureates and other experts issued an urgent call to action.
“Guided by the science”, is a phrase I heard from my government almost on a daily basis throughout 2020. The context was of course the ongoing pandemic, and on a global scale we all watched how strategies to deal with the pandemic succeeded or failed depending on how closely they followed advice of researchers and medical professionals.
I do not believe this audience needs convincing that science must be at the centre of the solutions to the problems that face us. Solutions must be evidence-based. The real question, I believe, is how to harness scientific guidance which at times may seem to be at odds with other priorities.
In my view, we must look to collaborations and partnerships, to breaking down the siloes between governments, the finance, business and research sectors, and the wider society. Crucially, we must also break down the silos within the research ecosystem.
Climate change, energy crisis, loss of biodiversity, food crisis and poverty all require solutions from across research disciplines, that range from anthropology through to zoology. It is a time for not only multidisciplinary solutions but interdisciplinary ones. We should therefore look to reimagine our education systems so that we can train a new generation of researchers who identify as true interdisciplinarians. Multidisciplinary journals such as the one I lead, Nature, can truly come into their own by providing a venue and a platform for disseminating such research.
We must also embrace research from academia and industry alike, and accelerate a growing appreciation of the powerful synergy between lessons from micro-scale, local examples, analyses and data with global, large scale models.
But the power of collaboration extends beyond the research sector.
The pandemic offers a special opportunity, as economies need rebooting, NGOs and governments alike operate in emergency modes and science is on the lips of everyone.
Just as science has guided governments during the pandemic, it should guide the post pandemic re-boot, for example future investments. The Biden administration is planning to focus its financial support of public agencies on those that work in climate change and environmental protection and public health, among others. The World Bank and the IMF would do well to take a leaf out of this book. Science can and should help guide investments and lending criteria.
We are seeing one country after another pledging carbon neutrality ahead of this year’s COP. These are incredibly positive developments but unfortunately the pledges are made in the absence of a definition of what net zero actually means. This is important because Researchers have shown that different definitions and pathways to net zero can have drastically differing outcomes, including whether or not the Paris agreement target is actually met.
There is now a growing momentum towards protecting 30% of the planet by 2030.
Last December, the 30% ocean goal was backed by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, illustrating beautifully how tensions between the priorities of governments, the conservation community and industry can be ameliorated when all parties place trust in real-world evidence provided by multidisciplinary research teams. And we are reaching similar conclusions for the food systems and biodiversity. Science is helping identify synergies where previously the world saw mainly tensions.
My call for collaborations and partnerships extends beyond the sphere of experts and professionals. UN declaration of human rights refers to Science as an expression of human dignity. Science belongs to us all and everyone should be included.
The next UN Global Sustainable Development Report is being compiled as we speak. Why not reach out this time beyond the usual expert networks and look for innovative ways to involve under-represented communities.
Let us therefore make it our goal that our discussions and recommendations resonate with every human being on this planet. That the theme our planet, our future rings true to everyone, regardless who they are, where they come from or where they live.
Read the Nobel Prize Summit’s statement here.
Read Our future in the Anthropocene biosphere, a white paper which framed part of the summit and discusses the role of science in supporting the transformation towards global sustainability and resilient societies.