The World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)
In 2021 the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) completed its transition to a new structure, based on six Core Projects and five ‘Lighthouse Activities’. This included the establishment of a new Core Project on Earth System Modelling and Observations (ESMO), which integrates modelling, data and observational activities across WCRP, and links to key partners, and a new Core Project on Regional Information for Society (RIfS). The Lighthouse Activities are designed to be ambitious and transdisciplinary so that they can rapidly advance some of the new science, technologies and institutional frameworks. Collectively, the activities aim to enable society to access, assess and use the very best climate data and information available in a timely manner and in innovative ways, and to ensure that this is supported by training and education.
WCRP continued to ensure that policy-makers have access to the very latest and best climate research available. Members of the WCRP community were active as authors of various chapters of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report. WCRP was involved in a number of science events at COP26, and released a statement titled ‘Emerging climate risks and what will it take to limit global warming to 2.0°C?’ Together with Future Earth and the Earth League, WCRP released the ‘10 New Insights in Climate Science 2021’.
WCRP also considered how to better engage in the regions of the world, holding WCRP Climate Research Forums in Asia, Europe, and North, Central and South America. This will be built on in a variety of ways in the lead-up to the WCRP Open Science Conference in 2023, which will have the theme of ‘Advancing Climate Science for a Sustainable Future’.
The Urban Health and Wellbeing Programme (UHWB)
A highlight for 2021 was a five-day online workshop on co-creating solutions to complex urban problems. The online workshop explored the health co-benefits of Haizhu Wetland Park in Guangzhou through collaborative systems modelling, and demonstrated the potential of collaborative systems modelling for improving decision-making under complexity and facilitating interconnected systems thinking. Policy recommendations were formulated, and the outcomes of the workshop have been accepted for publication in the journal Cities & Health.
Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR)
The Integrated Research on Disaster Risk’s IRDR Compilation 2010–2020: A Ten-Year Science Quest for Disaster Risk Reduction was published in 2021, summarizing the programme’s main achievements in research and action, science-policy exchange, capacity building, and challenges and opportunities for the future. The Framework for Global Science in Support of Risk-informed and Sustainable Development and Planetary Health was launched at the ISC General Assembly 2021. The Framework provides a compelling set of directions for research and scientific collaboration to understand and manage risks. The framework also drew on the IRDR Working Paper series, two of which were published in 2021: Mapping Disaster Risk Reduction Institutions Using Web-based Accessible Information and The State of Knowledge on Disaster Risk.
The IRDR 2021 International Conference ‘Advancing Risk Science for Development Safety: 10 Years of IRDR – Building a new risk research agenda for 2030 and beyond’ was held in June 2021, with 426 participants from 80 countries, and the establishment of an International Centre of Excellence (ICoE) Japan was approved by the Scientific Committee. The ICoE will further strengthen coherence between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
Future Earth collaborated with the ISC on reports, activities and shared communication efforts in 2021. The Sustainability Research & Innovation Congress brought together more than 2,000 participants from over 100 countries, and the Global Risks Perceptions Report 2021, developed with the ISC, shared findings from scientists on the likelihood and impact of 35 global risks. Future Earth contributed to the Global Forum of Funders and the resulting Unleashing Science report, as well as collaborating with the ISC on the Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) to feed into the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.
Find out more about all the highlights from Future Earth in their 2020–2021 Annual Report.
Global Research Programme on Inequality (GRIP)
The Global Research Programme on Inequality (GRIP) launched a number of new materials in 2021, including a newsletter and podcast (‘Unequal Worlds’) with the goal of reaching a broader audience to increase awareness of rising inequalities in all forms and dimensions. GRIP also led the programme committee for the 2021 SDG Conference Bergen and organized a special session devoted to discussions on global perspectives on inequality in reformulating the SDGs. The interdisciplinary Speculative Urban Futures project was initiated by GRIP, focusing on exploring possible urban futures and inequalities. GRIP continued to examine the inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19, via the miniseries ‘Inequality in the (Post)-Pandemic City’ and a webinar on vaccine inequality.
The Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)
The Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) launched three ambitious programmes in 2021, under the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, with a shared vision of a co-designed, integrated observing and forecasting system, driven by user needs and linking coastal and open ocean. Capacity building will provide more communities with access to information to guide policy, investment and sustainable development. The Ocean Observations in Areas under National Jurisdiction Workshop Report raised a red flag on the constraints scientists face when deploying ocean observation systems in countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones and proposed a number of practical solutions. An extensive study of the global coverage of biological ocean observations was published by the GOOS BioEco panel and partners, identifying knowledge gaps in the global status of marine life and calling for prioritized action.
Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)
In 2021 the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) released its latest report on the state of the global climate observing system, which was submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for consideration at COP26.
The report shows that satellite observations have improved since 2015, allowing near-global coverage of many variables and open access to the data. In situ observations have improved too, with new technologies and approaches being developed, especially in the oceans, and better archiving and online access to the observations and derived information.
Overall, there are four main areas that still need improvement: (a) ensuring the sustainability of observations; (b) gaps in geographical coverage; (c) ensuring permanent and unrestricted access to the observations; and (d) support of policies driven by the UNFCCC Paris Agreement.
An Implementation Plan proposing actions to improve the global climate system will be published in 2022.
Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR)
The highlight of 2021 for the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) was the launch of three new Scientific Research Programmes: INStabilities and Thresholds in ANTarctica (INSTANT), Integrated Science to Inform Antarctic and Southern Ocean Conservation (Ant-ICON) and Near-term Variability and Prediction of the Antarctic Climate System (AntClimnow).
Other highlights include events organized by SCAR at COP26 in Glasgow and a keynote lecture at the Antarctic Parliamentarians’ Assembly.
SCAR also featured in the ISC-BBC StoryWorks ‘Unlocking Science’ series with a dynamic article, ‘What Antarctica can teach us about climate change’.
The Paris Declaration adopted at the 43rd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting reinforced the value of SCAR in providing scientific advice.
Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR)
The Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) community made remarkable progress in 2021, maintaining engagement through over 100 virtual meetings and publishing more than 160 papers.
Three new SCOR Working Groups were approved, on ocean-ice-atmosphere processes, fish visual CENSUS techniques, and mixotrophy in the oceans, and several SCOR working groups and projects were endorsed by the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development or are contributing to Ocean Decade-endorsed projects. On capacity development, SCOR supported fellowships and visiting scholar programmes, and co-organized the ‘International Workshop on Application of Ocean Science and Technology for the Practice of Sustainable “Blue Economy” in Developing Countries’ with the Centre for Science and Technology of the Non-Aligned & Other Developing Countries. SCOR also became a partner leading the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development (IYBSSD2022).
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Image: BBC StoryWorks Commercial Productions. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research featured in the multimedia article ‘What Antarctica can teach us about climate change’.