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    March 3, 2011

    157

    The Big Science Questions for Society

    At this Earthwatch lecture, Sir John Beddington highlights the scientific challenges for the future, including climate change, food and water security, and energy provision.

    Sir John Beddington, the chief scientific adviser to Her Majesty’s Government,  highlighted the scientific challenges for the future, including climate change, food and water security, and energy provision for a growing global population.

    The event, entitled “The Big Science Questions for Society,” was co-hosted by Earthwatch, the Open University, and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE) at the University of Oxford.

    Sir John spoke about the unprecedented times the world is facing in terms of population growth and an aging population. In a thought-provoking talk that touched on subjects from the economic growth of countries like Brazil and China to the need for “climate smart” agriculture and the importance of technologies like carbon capture and storage, he emphasized throughout the importance of science in informing solutions to the challenges we face. Sir John also stressed the equal importance of communication and maintaining a dialogue with the public.

    Sir John Beddington highlights scientific challenges for the future

    Speaking of the rising global population, Sir John told the audience at the Said Business School, “The decisions we take on the food system today and over the next few years could have a profound effect on issues such as deforestation and biodiversity. If we get the decisions right - so that we get through the next few decades until the population levels off - then the benefits will be long-lasting. But conversely, if we make the wrong decisions, then some of the damage to the environment could be irreparable. We need to make the right decisions now so that we can feed everyone without causing lasting damage.”

    Earthwatch Executive Vice President of Nigel Winser said, “I was delighted to welcome an audience of over 200 senior business leaders, opinion formers, and representatives from the science and NGO communities in Oxford and further afield to our Oxford lecture. Sir John gave us a challenging insight into the scope and complexity of the global social and environmental priorities that we face, and stressed the need for improved collaboration and public understanding of science.”

    Sir David King, director of the SSEE, said, “The challenges to global security over the coming decades in managing supplies of water, energy, and food to meet continuously increasing demand are compounded by climate change and its impacts. We need new thinking in science, in economics, in politics, and in business to convert these challenges into opportunities for better living which incorporate the true value of the global commons into our social structures.”

    Hazel Rymer, professor of environmental volcanology and dean of science (elect) at the Open University, said, “Our natural world is being challenged on many different levels, ranging from severe weather and natural disasters to food production. We have to increase our scientific knowledge to better understand how to deal with challenges on a global scale. The Open University has recently partnered with Earthwatch to enable students across the world to develop their experience and knowledge through research fieldwork.”



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