20 December 2021
Scientists Issue Roadmap to Protect Earth as Safe Operating Space
Photo by Lucas Vasques
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The International Science Council issued a report on how science funders can support the production of actionable knowledge in five areas that pose the most risk to the Earth as a “safe operating space” within ten or 20 years.

The five areas are food, water, health, climate/energy, and urban areas.

The International Science Council convened a process to reorient funding for scientific research and institutional arrangements to support needed societal transformations. The resulting report sets out a roadmap for the production of actionable knowledge in five areas that pose the most risk to the Earth as a “safe operating space” within ten or 20 years.

The authors explain that the ISC process was requested by the international funding community, and the report was produced under the framework of the Global Forum on Funders.

The five missions aim to ignite the imagination and galvanize society at large.

The report, titled ‘Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability,’ outlines Sustainability Science Missions in five areas that require immediate changes and allow integration with the SDGs:

  • Food: eating adequate, healthy diets without consuming nature’s bounty;
  • Water: replenishing nature’s reservoirs to provide enough clean water for all;
  • Health and Wellbeing: being whole and well in body, mind and nature;
  • Urban areas: thriving in places while stewarding the natural environment; and
  • Climate and energy: shifting to clean energy while restoring a safe climate.

None of these areas can be effectively dealt with unilaterally, they are major drivers of unsustainability and environmental degradation, as well as social deprivation and inequality, and they are the areas most at risk from the environmental changes already underway, the authors argue.

According to the authors, the international science system, as currently funded, produces knowledge that is too narrowly focused, fragmented, and disconnected from society’s most immediate needs. Instead, the support structures, processes and funding mechanisms must orient science towards being solutions-focused, interdisciplinary and systems-focused, globally and regionally “capacitated,” collaborative, inclusive, and accessible to all.

The report aims to guide science and research, along with science funders, policy-makers and the private sector, in addressing the human pressures on the Earth that are undermining the fundamental processes that underpin its resilience and ensure a habitable biosphere.

Next steps include defining key stakeholders for each mission, making the science missions more specific in each area. Each mission will aim to “ignite the imagination” to galvanize society at large. [Publication: Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability]

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