By: Julian Gutt
The Paris Agreement was the main result of the COP21 UN climate conference in 2015. It included the ever most clearly defined political statement on the existence of anthropogenic climate change and the need for it to be reduced. After ratification of many countries it went into force in November 2016. Thus, one can assume that their mission to provide evidence for the existence of anthropogenic climate change and its impacts has been accomplished. In an opinion survey, Antarctic ecosystem researchers expressed their views in which direction science should head as a consequence of this development (Gutt 2016).
Four options for answers were offered (Fig. 1). The majority voted in support of research for a better ecosystem understanding under climate change, since overarching questions seem to not yet be sufficiently answered. Applied research for mitigation received intermediate support despite the fact that the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean is the place where, by far, the least greenhouse gas is produced. The Southern Ocean is also not suited for geoengineering. Intermediate support was also received for no changes in research strategies. This might be a result of an already existing dynamic development of new research concepts. It might also be due to traditional questions, which are not yet sufficiently answered, e.g. on the Southern Ocean ecosystem acting as a CO2 sink. Surprisingly, fewest experts were in favour of totally new scientific themes.
The results were also analysed separately for different groups of responding experts in terms of stage of career, institutions where they are employed (applied and mission orientated or independent), and for terrestrial or marine scientists (Fig. 2). Novel cross-disciplinary student courses and university degrees could take into account new requirements by stakeholders in succession of the Paris Agreement. However, traditional academic education and creativity is also still needed. Despite the paper on this opinion survey describing the independent opinions of the respondents and the conclusions represent the personal opinion of the author, this survey and the paper would not have materialised without the support from the AnT-ERA community.
Reference: Gutt J (2016) Research on climate-change impact on Southern Ocean and Antarctic ecosystems after the UN Paris climate conference - "now more than ever" or "set sail to new shores"? Polar Biology, DOI: 10.1007/s00300-016-2059-y)