During the first day (6th November) of COP 23 in Bonn a panel lead by Cornell University's Dr. Johannes Lehmann discussed about the soil carbon and its relation to food security and several other global concerns. Kicking off the conversation the panel members pointed out that there are high volumes of carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere and the vegetation combined. Therefore, it has become “the elephant in the room” as Dr. Lehman points out. Every 7-8 years the carbon in the vegetation cycles through the soil and gets back to the vegetation. The increased carbon in the soil is expected to mitigate the carbon stored in the atmosphere which is a very important factor here in the implementation of the climate agenda. There multiple reasons why this topic is important, in food security, national resources, reduction in migration lead political instability and pollution hazards.
Soil carbon is seen in rapidly degrading agricultural landscapes in eastern Africa. Losses are seen as a result of the deforestation and continuous agriculture. The panel pointed out that if the soil is well managed 2-3 times of organic carbon is coming in to the soil. Therefore, it is possible to achieve higher carbon in the soils. When 1% of the land is covered with the soil type that they desire (managed dark soil) they see 26% of the food consumption and 24% of the household income coming from that soil and therefore, the carbon management is effective.
Can this be achieved by traditional soil management? Which is one of the major tasks ahead. Secondly, scientists have indicated ‘low certainty’ in the ability to manage soil. Rather than attributing to uncertainty, Dr. Lehmann points out it is the variabilities that present the challenges than the uncertainties. To deal with the variability, better models and better remote sensing data acquisition are proposed. The technologies are becoming cheaper and therefore, there is no excuse that the soil management and monitoring is not possible. In conclusion, the panel pointed out that food security interventions contribute to climate change mitigation with high soil carbon benefits of around ⅓. If you further look into the different inputs from the experts around the world on this matter there are both pessimistic and optimistic points of views about the targets set forward by the Paris climate agenda.
 UNFCCC COP 23
- Written by Sajith Wijesuriya
UNFCCC COP 23 kicked off in Bonn, Germany today(6th November). From a science-policy perspective we were interested in the joint plenary meeting of SBSTA and SBI held today. The SBI and SBSTA are the two permanent subsidiary bodies to the convention established by the COP/CMP. They support the work of the COP, the CMP and the CMA through the assessment and review of the effective implementation of the convention. During the session several member states representing coalition parties presented their statements. We will summarize few points raised here.
- Written by Sajith Wijesuriya
With there being around 8000 rare diseases 1/17 of us may have one, ‘By 2020 almost half of Britons will get cancer during their lifetime’-Macmillan.org. This may call for greater investment in the 100000 genome project. Sometimes when things happen to families, when their lives have been torn apart, they like to have some answers as to how and why they had to undergo what they had to go through. Having a better understanding of rare diseases and cancer via genetics enable us to provide these much needed answers.
More importantly policies, projects like the 100000 genome project enables us to practice tailored medicine/ personalised medicine where we are able to provide targeted treatment, rather than exposing patients to a host of abominable side-effects in the process of us treating them
- Written by Dr. Ruchindra Amarasinghe
Science policy is becoming a highly applicable and highly appreciated area of practice. Dr. Keith Yamamoto, the vice chancellor for science policy and strategy at UCSF, describes science policy work as, “any pronouncement… on science education, practice, ethics, communication, application, or social impact”. With the climate change, increasing population and other challenges to life on earth, the scientific evidence based decision making is becoming more and more relevant.
Establishment of science policy processes is also important in determining the budgets for communities regardless of the economic standing of the country. Data and measurement are important aspects in strengthening the bridge between science and policy. This includes data generation, storage, protection, sharing, citation, and utilization, the accessibility, management of resources and standards, and accurate interpretation. Furthermore, experimentation with metrics based on new tools and data, and implementing innovative ways of using existing data to provide insights into emerging areas of policy interests is required in all sciences. Intellectual property rights create an interface between other policy concerns like traditional knowledge, institutional research, health and economics and therefore, play an integral part in science policy decisions.
Currently the science policy is mostly dominated by lawyers and politicians. Although they are capable of formulating and communicating policy, most of them do not have a background in science. Therefore, they have a little ability to capture the changing climate in science. Without capturing the changes in science (which in some fields are quite rapid) the policy decisions they make would not be optimum. Few scientific establishments have already recognized this requirement however, the focus on the developing countries and many processes is still inadequate. Therefore, SciencePolicy circle wishes to strengthen science policy linkage mechanisms and engage practitioners to generate knowledge and take action in communities. The science-policy interface has also become increasingly important within the UN system. It provides the foundation for evidence-informed policies, facilitates the use of science, technology, and innovation (STI) as enablers in the implementation and review, and provides a scientific lens into monitoring impact.
- Written by Sajith Wijesuriya
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