Need for UN panel to safeguard ecosystems: researchers

April 18th, 2008 - 12:35 am ICT by admin  

Stockholm, April 17 (DPA) Scientists from a broad range of disciplines as well as politicians Thursday agreed on the need to set up a UN panel on ecosystem sustainability, citing threats from human development and climate change. Johan Rockstrom, head of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, co-host of the conference said that “with so much focus on climate change” it is sometimes forgotten to take into account how ecosystems and societies can “withstand a certain pressure and still rise and continue to develop.”

Resilience has been a research field for over 30 years “but it is only now we are beginning to get a catalogue of insights that ecosystems and social systems are interconnected and behave in surprising non-linear ways,” Rockstrom said of so-called tipping points or thresholds when the system can no longer cope.

Changes to the climate, deforestation, and destruction of soils may combine and create harsher living conditions.

To tackle these challenges it was necessary to pool knowledge from disciplines including the social sciences, the humanities and natural science.

“The big task is to bridge that gap to the politicians and get them to think about it,” Australian researcher Brian Walker said.

For the past eight years Walker has headed a network of scientists in the Resilience Alliance.

Some 600 scientists were gathered at the four-day conference Resilience, Adapations and Transformation in Turbulent Times.

In addition to sharing research results, they discussed the need for a panel on the lines of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that in 2007 shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice president Al Gore.

Anders Wijkman, member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Christian Democrats, said that unlike the IPCC that consists of scientists the new UN panel should include politicians to ensure more awareness of the need for change and disperse research data.

“We have a maximum of 10 years to do something,” said Wijkman, who also was a member of the Swedish climate commission.

Other suggestions floated included creating a “super ministry” above the finance ministry - that in the Swedish government has a veto over decisions - to ensure sustainable ecological and economic development, Rockstrom said.

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