At a recent event in Bengaluru, India, leading researchers and government officials inaugurated the South Asia Regional Office of Future Earth. The event took place at the Divecha Centre for Climate Change (DCCC) at the Indian Institute for Science (IISc) on 9 July 2016. The new Regional Office for South Asia has a domain that spans over the countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Myanmar and a few Indian Ocean island nations. It will seek to promote sustainability and climate research and will adapt and spread the vision of Future Earth in the region. This Regional Office is located at the Divecha Centre for Climate Change.
The event in Bengaluru served as a national brainstorming meeting on Future Earth. It was attended by nearly 70 invited experts across multiple disciplines, including weather, climate, monsoons, aerosols and anthropogenic emissions, polar and cryosphere research, modelling, hydrology, agriculture, remote sensing, oceanography and more. The purpose of this meeting was to take stock of the activities that science departments and academia are pursuing in India on topics relevant to Future Earth. The meeting also sought to chalk out the way ahead for sustainability research, considering the overall guiding principles of Future Earth and the topics relevant to the region. Participants suggested ways to synthesise the information emanating from these research efforts and generate knowledge needed for societies (regional and global) to address the grand challenges posed by climate change for health and food and water security.
The opening session was chaired by Professor Anurag Kumar, Director of IISc, while Dr. M. Rajeevan, Secretary of the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), and Shri. A.S. Kiran Kumar, Secretary of the Department of Space (DoS), addressed the gathering. In his opening remarks, Anurag Kumar briefly touched upon the rationale of this new international initiative and the expectations from the Regional Office. He announced the formal establishment of the Future Earth South Asia Regional Office at that time.
A.S. Kiran Kumar enumerated the various space-based services the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) provides to the nation and the region. ISRO imparts information about natural resources, productivity, glacier dynamics, water resources, winds over the ocean, flood assessments, essential climate variables and aerosols and greenhouse gases through dedicated satellites, ground based observational networks and integrated information dissemination.
Kiran Kumar went on to talk about the various satellites and tools developed by ISRO and how they help in collecting data on climate and other parameters. He also spoke about the new generation satellites that ISRO will launch in the future and how they can help the work of the South Asia Regional Office.
In his address, Rajeevan emphasised the role of MoES in providing information on weather and climate to the general public of India: from farmers, fishermen and pilgrims to urban residents, highway users and the government agencies. He also elucidated the ministry’s plan to expand its services so as to reach more people and provide information on the impacts of changing climate such as extreme weather extended droughts and heat waves.
Rajeevan noted that the main goal of Future Earth is to develop the knowledge required for societies worldwide to face challenges posed by global environmental change and to identify and implement solutions and opportunities for transitions to global sustainability. He further stated that establishing the Future Earth South Asia Regional Office in India at IISc would provide the country with an opportunity to take a leadership role and provide expertise on the science behind rapid global change. The new office will also help Indian scientists to formulate strategies to drive society along a pathway toward sustainability.
This was followed by a comprehensive presentation by Professor S.K. Satheesh, Chairman of Divecha Centre and Executive Director of the South Asia Regional Office, on the general objectives and structure of the Future Earth initiative and the functions of the Regional Office.
“The South Asia Regional Office,” Satheesh said, “is an autonomous research platform that promotes scientific cooperation between India and neighbouring countries in Future Earth-related activities. The regional hub will ensure that regional priorities are made part of the strategic development of Future Earth activities.”
“The vision of Future Earth is ‘Science for the People’ and requires solutions-oriented research that responds to the challenges faced by the society due to global environmental change in collaboration with various research partners, decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil society,” he added. The regional hub will soon organise its first workshop to take this visions forward, and thematic working groups, or task teams, will be established soon after the workshop, Satheesh said: “The mandate of this office is to integrate the available information and develop strategic knowledge and region-specific strategies to tackle and face the consequences of climate change.”
The next session, chaired by M. Rajeevan, Secretary of MoES, and and Professor J. Srinivasan, DCCC, sought inputs from experts from different domains attending the meeting. Keeping in view the broad mandate of Future Earth, participants discussed some tentative topics relevant to the region to initiate activities. The topics included:
- Extreme weather
- Ecology (including biodiversity)
- Aerosols and Clouds (including air quality)
- Remote sensing (including land use and land cover changes)
- Agriculture and Food security
- Oceanography (Sea-levels rise)
- Renewable energy
During the afternoon, Dr. K. Krishnamoorthy, Chairman of the Future Earth National Committee for India and Professor Ravi Nanjundiah, Chairman of the Centre for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (CAOS), summarised the proceedings, with interactive deliberations from the participants.
Satheesh concluded the session by talking about the vision of Future Earth and its proposed activities. He stated that the vision of Future Earth is for people to thrive in a sustainable and equitable world. In order to achieve this, it is extremely important for the scientific community to engage with diverse decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil society to collate all the knowledge that is available. The regional office will promote scientific co-operation between India and its neighbouring countries in Future Earth related activities. He mentioned that activities of the office should be inter-disciplinary in nature and that the mandate of the office is to:
- Integrate available information from national laboratories in India as well as in SAARC countries, ministries and departments and academic institutions and develop specific strategies to tackle and face consequences of climate change.
- Promote the implementation of specific activities of Future Earth over the region.
- Ensure that regional priorities are made part of the strategic development of Future Earth.
- Operate as primary point of contact between interested researchers, research institutions, funding agencies and other parties and Future Earth.
- Provide up-to-date and timely information about the objectives and organisation of Future Earth, actively reaching out to researchers and stakeholders over this region.