Saturday, June 28, 2008

Agenda 21: Chapter 35 SCIENCE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT -35.1. This chapter focuses on the role and the use of the sciences in supporting the prudent management of the environment and development for the daily survival and future development of humanity. The programme areas proposed herein are intended to be over-arching, in order to support the specific scientific requirements identified in the other Agenda 21 chapters. One role of the sciences should be to provide information to better enable formulation and selection of environment and development policies in the decision-making process. In order to fulfill this requirement, it will be essential to enhance scientific understanding, improve long-term scientific assessments, strengthen scientific capacities in all countries and ensure that the sciences are responsive to emerging needs. 35.2. Scientists are improving their understanding in areas such as climatic change, growth in rates of resource consumption, demographic trends, and environmental degradation. Changes in those and other areas need to be taken into account in working out long-term strategies for development. A first step towards improving the scientific basis for these strategies is a better understanding of land, oceans, atmosphere and their interlocking water, nutrient and biogeochemical cycles and energy flows which all form part of the Earth system. This is essential if a more accurate estimate is to be provided of the carrying capacity of the planet Earth and of its resilience under the many stresses placed upon it by human activities. The sciences can provide this understanding through increased research into the underlying ecological processes and through the application of modern, effective and efficient tools that are now available, such as remote-sensing devices, robotic monitoring instruments and computing and modelling capabilities. The sciences are playing an important role in linking the fundamental significance of the Earth system as life support to appropriate strategies for development which build on its continued functioning. The sciences should continue to play an increasing role in providing for an improvement in the efficiency of resource utilization and in finding new development practices, resources, and alternatives. There is a need for the sciences constantly to reassess and promote less intensive trends in resource utilization, including less intensive utilization of energy in industry, agriculture, and transportation. Thus, the sciences are increasingly being understood as an essential component in the search for feasible pathways towards sustainable development. 35.3. Scientific knowledge should be applied to articulate and support the goals of sustainable development, through scientific assessments of current conditions and future prospects for the Earth system. Such assessments, based on existing and emerging innovations within the sciences, should be used in the decision-making process and in the interactive processes between the sciences and policy-making. There needs to be an increased output from the sciences in order to enhance understanding and facilitate interaction between science and society. An increase in the scientific capacity and capability to achieve these goals will also be required, particularly in developing countries. Of crucial importance is the need for scientists in developing countries to participate fully in international scientific research programmes dealing with the global problems of environment and development so as to allow all countries to participate on equal footing in negotiations on global environmental and developmental issues. In the face of threats of irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific understanding should not be an excuse for postponing actions which are justified in their own right. The precautionary approach could provide a basis for policies relating to complex systems that are not yet fully understood and whose consequences of disturbances cannot yet be predicted.

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