As leaders of the G7 countries held a summit in Japan this week to discuss foreign policy, development, and other issues, a group of science academies urged these leaders to take stronger action on disaster resilience, nurturing the next generation of scientists, and better understanding the brain.
Calling disaster resilience “essential” to sustainable development, the science academies said that decision makers need better tools to understand and cope with the impacts of natural and human-caused disasters. They called for improved methods to evaluate people’s exposure, vulnerability, and resilience to disasters; better scientific and technical knowledge to improve disaster risk assessments; and engaging the public and private sector investor communities in disaster risk reduction in a joint statement issued prior to the summit.
Science academies from the G7 (Group of 7) countries signing the statement included those from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Other academies from Brazil, India, Indonesia, Korea, South Africa, and Turkey, along with the African Academy of Sciences, also signed the document.
The statement noted that more than 6000 natural and technological disasters occurred around the world between 2005 and 2014 and that key agreements reached in 2015, including the Paris climate agreement, could help to set a new direction in mitigating disasters. “These agreements collectively present an urgent need and opportunity for action in 2016 and beyond,” the statement read.
Focus on the Next Generation of Scientists
The academies’ statement on nurturing scientists called for measures to promote science education, improve working conditions for scientists who are women and minorities, and support scientists in developing countries. Noting that society relies heavily on science-based discovery, technology, and policies, the academies said that “nurturing future generations of scientists is important for the development of society.”
John Hildebrand, foreign secretary of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, told Eos that the science academies’ statements can make a difference. He added that in preparation for this year’s G7 meeting, the Science Council of Japan began a new practice of asking other academies about the impact of previous statements. “It does seem that prior years’ statements have been taken seriously by G7 governments,” Hildebrand said.
As an example, he said that a G7 Science Academies statement in 2015 on the effect of human activities on marine systems led to Germany establishing an interdisciplinary program to better understand the effects of marine litter, the commissioning of a United Nations report on marine litter pollution, and other measures.
—Randy Showstack, Staff Writer