Finnish Science Academies’ Risto Pelkonen Human Rights Award can be granted for active efforts in promoting human rights in academic communities. The award is granted in collaboration with Academy of Fine Arts of Uniarts Helsinki.
The criteria for the award:
-The award can be granted to a person, an organisation, or a community for active efforts in promoting freedom of science, academic freedom or human rights of academics.
-The awarded person/organisation/community can operate locally or internationally, within or outside the academic community.
-The activity can relate to fostering of human rights (such as freedom of speech) of academics or ensuring the foundations and possibilities for diversified academic work and scientific processes;
-the activity can relate to immediate intervening in human rights violations of academics or fighting against discrimination in its many forms;
-The activity can relate to objecting to hate speech, stigmatising of academics, or demeaning of scientific knowledge or communities.
The Human Rights Committee of the Council of Finnish Academies calls for nominations for the 2022 Awardee. Please submit the nominations with supporting statements to email@example.com by 31 January 2022.
The recent IPCC Report confirms that global warming is getting faster and faster. The impact is playing in real time as we watch villages flood and forests burn. Meanwhile the hidden crisis of biodiversity loss continues with the loss of forests to land clearance, exacerbated by the fires. As the Climate and Biodiversity Crises potentiate each other, EASAC’s new Commentary adds the most recent data to inform both the UN Glasgow Climate Summit and the Biodiversity Summit in China this autumn, with a focus on 16 areas requiring urgent action to shield humanity from the worst.
The Commentary’s summary of EASAC’s ten years of scientific analysis covering environmental, energy and biosciences is set against the scary backdrop of an inexorable increase in temperature and humidity expanding in some areas to levels where it is difficult or impossible for humans or the crops and livestock they need to survive. Adding science too recent to have been included in the IPCC Report, Europe’s Science Academies urge governments to treat the Climate and Biodiversity Crises as one, and as equally urgent.
Climate and Biodiversity Crises to be treated as one
“This summer’s rollercoaster of extreme temperatures, dryness, flash floods and wildfires has been bad, but probably far better than what we may see in the future,” explains Prof. Michael Norton, EASAC’s Environment Programme Director. “Biodiversity loss and dangerous Climate Change potentiate each other in their disastrous consequences. It’s a vicious circle not only leading to extreme weather but also collapsing food systems, and increasing risks of dangerous pathogens, zoonoses and other health impacts.”
The Commentary illustrates the multiple crises interactions: replacing tropical forests with agriculture reduces biodiversity at the same time as releasing stored carbon, reducing carbon uptake in the land and increasing emissions of other greenhouse gases (GHGs). Warming temperatures and associated changes to precipitation reduce agricultural productivity as well as moving species outside their habitable range, in some cases driving them to extinction. Warming and acidifying oceans alongside weakened circulation reduce the oceans’ capacity to absorb and remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, while shifting or degrading ecosystems.
Exit from the road to our own destruction
But the scientists also see opportunities: conserving, managing and restoring ecosystems for example can mitigate climate change and enable adaptation to its impacts while also enhancing biodiversity. “These challenges do have solutions but so far both the Climate Change and the Biodiversity Conventions separately have lacked the political will to implement them, or policy-makers have taken easy ways out without properly considering the consequences,” says Norton “The classic example being the failure to properly assess climate impacts of burning trees for electricity before allocating billions in subsidies. The two meetings in autumn need to map an exit from the current road that leads to our own destruction.”
Based on EASAC’s past work, the Commentary includes a list of 16 fields for action where governments should already have done more. They straddle climate change, the role of biomass energy, greenhouse gas emissions from different oil feedstocks, policies towards slashing emissions in transport, buildings and infrastructure, and the interactions between climate change and human health.
Relying on the GDP-based system not going to work
Systemic issues such as the barriers to the transformative changes required to tackle the Climate and Biodiversity Crisis are also addressed. “Relying on the current system to deliver the necessary reductions is not going to work”, says Norton. “The GDP-based economic system in which fossil fuel, food and agricultural interests are driving up CO2-levels, deforestation, land clearing and over-fishing is no longer fit for purpose if atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases must be cut in as short a period as possible.” The scientists make clear that governments need to push the reset button. If humanity wants to stop climate change and preserve the biodiversity that it needs for survival, it must change the economic system to one that rewards and incentivises sustainable choices and behaviour.
Focus on tipping points distracting from seriousness of underlying linear trends
Ever since the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, there has been much focus on tipping points. But according to EASAC, catastrophically disrupting trends are proceeding as gradual incremental changes as well. “The focus on tipping points creates an image of relay points up to which climate change can be seen as ‘safe’. However, not only do different tipping points interact with each other and increase the dangers, but the underlying linear trends such as temperature and humidity are serious in their own right,” Norton explains.
Chance for coordinated, bold and transformative action
“As parents and grand-parents we are as terrified as everyone else by what we see coming. But as scientists we know that there are ways to mitigate the worst and adapt. But only if governments in Europe and worldwide take responsibility and show leadership now”, says Lars Walloe, Chair of EASAC’s Environment Programme.
With the closely related policy agendas of the Climate Summit and the Biodiversity Summit, negotiators have the opportunity to take coordinated, bold and transformative action to deliver a new, more integrated and coherent framework for addressing biodiversity loss and climate change together. The urgency is such that both need to work together now, take advantage of the many potential synergies between climate change and biodiversity policies – such as massive ecosystem restoration – and change humanity’s course towards a sustainable future.
European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is a co-operative body for science academies in Europe. The Council of Finnish Academies is a national member of EASAC.
There are many possible pathways towards a carbon-neutral future — and achieving it by 2050 is possible but requires urgent action. This is the conclusion of a group of top scientists tasked by the European Commission with advising on how to facilitate the energy transition in Europe.
In the SAPEA evidence review report, experts underline that the energy transition is far from a purely technical challenge. To make the transition a reality, we need to solve a huge systemic problem, coordinating countless individual voluntary decisions on investment, consumption and behaviour across Europe.
This means transforming the entire European energy system — a change which will affect every part of our society and require huge investment during the transition. It must be done in a socially equitable way. And we already need to accelerate progress if we want to achieve the EU’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.
“Achieving the full decarbonisation of the EU energy system by mid-century is possible, but it requires urgent and decisive action to integrate emissions-free energy sources and uses in a flexible way, creating a participatory environment that supports clean energy choices, and using the right combination of regulatory instruments are necessary steps to make this transition efficient, inclusive and fair”, says professor Nebojsa Nakicenovic, deputy chair of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors.
Photo: Wahid Sadiq (Unsplash)
The state of the Atlantic adds a layer of variability to local sea level rise in Europe, while the massive loss of ice mass in the Antarctic due to climate change is sufficient to affect the gravitational pull on the earth’s oceans so that they move towards the Northern Hemisphere. This is just one of the many findings of the EASAC’s 2-year expert study of the state of the North Atlantic. “European nations would be well advised to plan for a rise of one meter or more between 2000 and 2100,” says Prof. Michael Norton. The feared weakening of the Gulf Stream is not imminent. Nevertheless, scientists believe the danger is real and warn of its devastating consequences.
The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) releases the results of its 2-year expert study of the state of the North Atlantic and its implications for Europe. The study assesses the latest knowledge on ocean issues which are critical for humanity’s fate on the planet. Its release coincides with the UN’s World Oceans day and adds weight and detail to the UN’s emphasis thatthe health of the oceans is intimately tied to our health.
“Europe’s future in the Atlantic realm is one both of great concern but also one of great promise”, says expert group Chair Prof. Tor Eldevik. “The report is very clear about future climatic risks, but equally focuses on the future benefits we can harvest from better understanding of the relations between the state of the Atlantic and climatic conditions over Europe that affects everything from the supply of renewable energy to fisheries.”
Sea levels to rise faster around Europe than in the global South
Looking at the most recent evidence on melting glaciers and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctic, shows that sea-level rise is accelerating. “European nations would be well advised to plan for a rise of one meter or more between 2000 and 2100, and to closely monitor future trends to adjust as new data comes in,” concludes Prof. Michael Norton, EASAC’s Environment Director. “The loss of mass in the Antarctic is sufficient to affect the gravitational pull on the earth’s oceans so that they move away. This means that as the Antarctic melts, oceans shift to the north and sea level rises even faster around Europe.”
Dramatic consequences on weather and marine ecosystems
The state of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) that includes the Gulf Stream circulation that acts as a conveyor of massive amounts of heat from the subtropics to the Arctic, shapes weather patterns and influences life on more than one continent. As recently as 12,000 years ago, the AMOC “switched off” and drove destructive cooling- the possibility of this recurring as the planet warms has even inspired Hollywood movies!
Indeed, as the climate warms, models do suggest that the AMOC will weaken, but EASAC’s study finds that the latest measurements show that periodic weakening and recoveries do not yet reveal trends that can be separated from natural variability. Yet, and while the media image of a little ice age for NW Europe is not on the immediate horizon, the report also confirms how important this fundamental circulation in the Atlantic is – not just to Europe, but to the climate thousands of kilometers distant. “When the ocean currents change and the delicate balance between hot and warm is disturbed, the consequences can be dramatic, potentially affecting hundreds of millions of people. We need an early warning system,” says Norton.
The effects of acidification on marine ecosystems are not yet understood
Another result of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is that the oceans around Europe are acidifying – along with the rest of the world’s oceans.
Warming oceans are already reducing fishery yields. And changing marine ecosystems and make fisheries management more difficult and complex, so that the objective of sustainable fisheries depends on a much better understanding of how marine ecosystems respond to climate change. Marine Protected Areas may also need to move as the sea warms and circulation patterns change. “Europe doesn’t yet have a comprehensive monitoring network for acidity, and we need to understand much more how this will affect marine ecosystems and fisheries around our shores,” says Norton.
“Ocean shifts are very sensitive to success or failure in stopping warming”
“We have already put enough warmth into the planet to keep ice melting but how fast it melts is critical to our future,” says expert group Chair Prof. Tor Eldevik. “Future ocean shifts are very sensitive to our success or failure in stopping warming. If we succeed in keeping the average warming to 1.5°C, then Antarctica may continue melting at current rates; but overshooting the 2 °C Paris Agreement target towards 3°C may lead to Antarctic melt alone add 0.5 cm a year by 2100.”
According to the scientists there is only one possible remedy: Slashing emissions and protecting and increasing the uptake of carbon by the world’s forests and other carbon sinks. “It also means we should only support energy technologies that are low-carbon and thus reduce CO2 levels- another reason for preferring wind and solar renewable energies to biomass which continues to add CO2 to the atmosphere,” Norton reminds of findings of previous EASAC studies.
European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is a umbrella organisation for science academies in Europe. The Council of Finnish Academies is a national member of EASAC.
To live up to their climate pledge under the Paris agreement, EU lawmakers must ensure all 250 million existing as well as all new buildings in the EU become nearly zero greenhouse gas emitters. In a new report, experts nominated by EASAC’s member science academies call for far-reaching policy action. “Policymakers have long focused on creating energy-efficient buildings that reduce the need for heating and air conditioning or generate renewable energy on site. But the energy used for operating buildings is only part of the story. We must urgently broaden the scope and look at emissions embodied in construction materials and methods – both for new buildings and building renovation.”, says William Gillett, EASAC’s Energy Programme Director.
Currently, between 1 and 1.5% of the European building stock is being renovated annually. “To meet the goals of the Paris agreement, that rate should be two or even three times higher”, points out Gillett. “But more importantly, we need to factor in the massive emissions of the construction industry and supply chain, when calculating the climate impact of buildings. Renovating a building to reduce its energy consumption makes little sense if there is no control of the carbon-intensive materials and components used for the renovation, and if these are transported over long distances.”
So far, EU policies have centered on the concept of ‘Nearly-zero energy buildings’ with a focus on reducing the consumption of energy used to provide comfort to building occupants. According to EASAC, this notion is outdated: “Instead, the indicator to be used now for assessing the climate impact of a new building or renovation should be cumulative greenhouse gas emissions, including embodied emissions produced by the building works and operating emissions produced by the building in the years following those works. As there are only about 10 years left before the door closes for limiting global warming to less than 1.5 oC, there is an urgent need over this period to limit the creation of embodied greenhouse gas emissions when renovating to produce nearly zero emission buildings”
Buildings should be designed to be disassembled and recycled at end of their lifetime
The report points out that most of the built environment is still designed using a linear take-make-consume-dispose approach. Transitioning to a circular economy would not only allow to reduce resource consumption and carbon footprint, but also address the waste problem. “Circularity has many facets”, explains Prof. Brian Norton, Co-chair of EASAC’s Working Group. “Many building materials can be reused, recycled and recovered. To start with, buildings and their components should be designed to be easily disassembled at the end of their use.”
Renovating existing buildings must be at the heart of the EU’s strategy, the scientists argue. “It’s important to consider the re-use of existing buildings rather than replacing existing buildings with new ones,” says Norton. “There is a lot of embodied carbon in a building structure, especially in the concrete and steel. With today’s technologies and digitalized processes, renovating has become a lot easier and sustainable. We have to stop the current practice of knocking down structures to rebuild from scratch.” The report also argues that legislation must put a limit of embodied carbon per m2 of floor area that is brought into a building when it is constructed or renovated.
Climate neutrality by 2050 requires renovating more than 90.000 homes – per week
In 2020, the European Commission presented its ‘Renovation Wave’ strategy to boost energy renovation of buildings in the EU. It intends to revise the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive as one of the cornerstones of that strategy. “While a Directive on the energy performance of buildings has been in place since 2002, recast in 2010 and revised in 2018, the results so far have been underwhelming”, says Gillett.
The challenge, however, is huge. „75% of the buildings Europeans live in are estimated to have a poor energy performance. To renovate them would require 146 million renovations in only 30 years. Member States’ current efforts are not sufficient,” explains Norton. “Achieving climate neutrality implies we need to renovate more than 90.000 homes per week across the EU – in itself an enormous challenge.”
Buildings are an emission source that municipalities have a lot of control over
While the authors address their policy recommendations primarily to the European Union, they also make clear that cities have a big role to play. “Municipal Councils and urban planners have tremendous influence on procurement specifications. They can stimulate the renovation and construction of nearly zero GHG emission neighbourhoods with integrated energy and transport systems and adequate green spaces. They can facilitate up-grading existing district heating and cooling systems or build new ones with optimised use of renewable energy, including PV, heat pumps, solar and geothermal heating, waste heat and natural cooling. And they are particularly well-placed to oversee renovations of social housing and subsidise the deep renovation of private housing where necessary to reduce energy poverty.” says Norton.
EASAC’s messages to policymakers:
- Phase out fossil fuels by 2030, increase integrated supplies of decarbonised electricity and heat to buildings, industry and transport, and accelerate the deployment of carbon capture and storage.
- Use grants and incentivesto trigger, leverage and de-risk private financing for deep energy related building renovations.
- Regulate levels of embodied GHG emissionsin building materials and components, and promote recycled materials, re-used building components, and renovation instead of demolition.
- Refocus building regulations, certification schemes and incentivesto deliver new and renovated buildings that operate with nearly zero GHG emissions.
- Promote health and wellbeingto double / triple rates of renovations that improve air quality, increase access to daylight, and avoid draughts and overheating as well as reducing GHG emissions.
- Champion public authorities and cities,facilitate and support their commitments to decarbonise buildings and reduce energy poverty.
- Expand and modernise the building industryto operate using circular business models with 3 million more jobs (including high quality jobs) to deliver new and renovated buildings with nearly zero GHG emissions
- Improve access for building owners and professionals to certified dataon the embodied GHG emissions of building materials and components, and on the energy and GHG emission performance of new and renovated buildings
- Update EU legislation(EPBD, EED, RED, ETS, CPD, Taxonomy) using an integrated approach to phase out fossil fuels, increase renewable energy supplies and reduce cumulative GHG emissions from buildings.
European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is a co-operative body for science academies in Europe. The Council of Finnish Academies is a national members of EASAC.
Photo: Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash
In a new report, ALLEA examines the potential of technical and policy measures to tackle science disinformation and calls for improved European exchange and coordination in this field. Professor Risto Kunelius from Univeristy of Helsinki was one of the authors of the report.
While disinformation strategies are intoxicating public discourses in many fields, science disinformation is particularly dangerous to democratic governance and society at large. As highlighted by the ongoing pandemic, an undermining of trust in science poses a fundamental threat to political and individual decisions based on evidence and scientific knowledge.
The authors discuss the most prominent psychological, technical and political strategies to counter science disinformation, including inoculation, debunking, recommender systems, fact-checking, raising awareness, media literacy, as well as innovations in science communication and public engagement.
Following an analysis of the consequences of science disinformation in climate change, vaccine hesitancy and pandemics, the report concludes with a series of recommendations. The authors call for:
- a stronger focus on communicating how science works and more dialogue in science communication practices,
- a serious engagement with the public when exercising or communicating research,
- valuing the virtue of intellectual humility when communicating scientific evidence,
- the maintenance of good research practices and high ethical standards to ensure integrity and trustworthiness,
- accountable, honest, transparent, tailored and effective science advice mechanisms.
To implement these proposals, the authors advise to establish a European Centre/Network for Science Communication and a European Code of Conduct for Science Communication.
Read the full report here: https://academies.fi/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Fact-or-Fake-Discussion-Paper.pdf
ALLEA is the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, representing more than 50 academies from over 40 countries in Europe. The Council of Finnish Academies is a national member of ALLEA.