Monaco works for greater cooperation in polar sciences | Polarjournal
Prince Albert II of Monaco is the only sitting head of state to have visited both poles. The Princely family has a long history of polar exploration, dating back to Prince Albert I’s Arctic expeditions. Image: Philippe Fitte / FPA2

Last Thursday and Friday, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation’s Polar Symposium took place in the century-old Oceanographic Museum, between the Palais princier and the Mediterranean, bringing together scientists and experts, advocacy officers and directors of organizations, representatives of indigenous peoples and heads of state. During the two days of exchange, emphasis was on collaboration to rally a multitude of players from both poles to the sciences and the climate cause. Leading personalities from both the Arctic and Antarctic responded to this call, already launched in 2022, which follows on from the Paris One Planet – Polar Summit. Image: M. Dagnino / Monaco Oceanographic Institute

To be able to project into the future, science needs to collaborate more openly, “by nurturing a collaboration between experts from the two polar regions that is still all too rare”, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco stated in his opening speech at last week’s polar symposium at the city’s oceanographic museum.

From one science to another

Beneath the museum’s windows, through which the view sweeps across the sea to the horizon, experts shared their views on scientific collaboration. Jérôme Chappellaz, glaciologist on the Ice Memory project – which archives ice cores from all over the world in Antarctica – believes that ” full optimization of polar logistics ” is essential to limit emissions (flights, ships, etc.).

“We don’t know whether sea levels will rise by one or five meters by the end of the century”.

Antje Boetius

Jane Francis, Director of the British Antarctic Survey, points out that automatic tools such as drones, robots and satellites will cut observation costs in the long term. Others agree on the hope of better data acquisition, processing and sharing, fueled by the rise of artificial intelligence.

“We don’t know whether sea levels will rise by one or five meters by the end of the century,” says Antje Boetius, Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, “we need to know whether we’re going to see a greater loss of sea ice in Antarctica than in the Arctic. Image: Philippe Fitte / FPA2

Antje Boetius, Directrice of the Alfred Wegener Institute (Germany’s leading polar research center), is keen to point out that we need to cover all the sciences, from glaciers to sea ice – identifying the Southern Ocean among the unknowns of the global climate system, as well as from living organisms to human beings. Here, indigenous peoples have a major role to play. Conversely, Arctic communities need a vision of the climate future, unlike 2022, when “the biggest storm in Alaska was recorded”, recalls Victoria Herrmann of The Arctic Institute.

Native perspective

“By integrating the contributions of indigenous communities, so important and often neglected,” mentioned HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco in his speech.

“In Sami cosmology, human beings are part of nature; we don’t dominate it, it’s a place where we live and where we find our food,” explains Elle Merete Omma, head of the Saami Council‘s European unit. The organization unites this people, who live in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. It also claims seats in decision-making bodies in this Arctic territory, such as the European Parliament.

“We need to deconstruct the myths surrounding the polar regions”.

Jefferson Cardia Simões

The role of Inuit in science is one of the concerns of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. “They help explorers and research, but they don’t carry out their own research,” regrets Sara Olsvig, the council’s international representative. “We’re not passing on our knowledge through science, and that’s one of the biggest challenges we face.”

Elle Merete Omma, head of the Saami Council’s European unit, points out that climate change threatens the food security of the Arctic’s indigenous peoples. Image: Philippe Fitte / FPA2

“It is possible to modify the key indicators for monitoring ecosystem changes from indigenous observations, using the arrival time of bird species in spring, or in meat production, changes in color and texture, with an academic approach,” says Snorri Sigurðsson, head of the nature protection section at Icelandic Institute of Natural History, drawing inspiration from his work.

One of the vectors for preserving this knowledge remains languages, hence the importance of preserving them, and according to Elle Merete Omma, of recognizing the Saami language. This change in the way we think about and relate to indigenous societies also involves media coverage.

Messages to get across

“We need to deconstruct the myths around the polar regions to redefine the general public’s perception of the subject and appeal to all age groups,” says Jefferson Cardia Simões, vice-president of finance at the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). While the media has a role to play, communication should become a priority for research institutes.

Ideas emerged from the focus groups to define polar research priorities. Image: Philippe Fitte / FPA2

This is what came up in the discussions, some of which pointed out the need for media that provide relevant information on polar topics to fuel public debate. The Association of Early Career Polar Scientists (APECS) in France and Switzerland, for example, is working with PolarJournal to develop such skills.

Young researchers

Six young APECS researchers received a mobility fellowship from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation to join the forums where scientists and political decision-makers meet.

Young APECS researchers studying the Arctic or Antarctic receiving their awards from the foundation, SCAR and IASC. Image: Philippe Fitte / FPA2Image: Philippe Fitte / FPA2

Beatriz Recino-Rivas won the award for her work on ice flow modeling, and wondered what shape the results should take – in this case, probabilities of sea-level rise – depending on who she was addressing. “Insurance companies, land managers, municipalities, national agencies… everyone has their own issues and operates differently,” she clarified during a coffee break. She plans to join the Arctic Science Summit in Edinburgh in the near future.

“SCAR is a pioneer in science diplomacy”.

Jefferson Cardia Simões

“We’d like to do more work in Antarctica during the winter, but conditions are difficult, there’s nothing out there and it will take time to plan,” said Jane Francis of BAS, who like others is counting on the next generation. From APECS, Jilda Alicia Caccavo, reminded people in her opening speech, “there’s a need for people and there’s a need for money.”

The crux of the war

Private companies can also provide support. Tourism was therefore added to the discussions, always with the question of the balance between its impact and its scientific contribution. As Mads Qvist Frederiksen of the Arctic Economic Council explained, “research projects can be integrated onto trans-Arctic submarine cables”. But he also pointed out that philanthropy is gradually shifting towards impact financing, and that funders would appreciate being able to measure the impact.

Frederik Paulsen, polar explorer and entrepreneur, came to present the recently-opened foundation in France, for which he initiated the main capital and was addressing the French-speaking research community to raise further funds. Image: Philippe Fitte / FPA2

One way of developing research is to meet with funders, “by encouraging cooperation, partnerships and co-financing”, explained HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco in his speech. The Principality of Monaco has long been committed to the polar regions, and the Prince’s Foundation made them a priority before they appeared on the international political agenda.

“On the political agenda”

At the end of the symposium, “the Foundation will publish an action plan which will be available to political decision-makers”, stated Olivier Wenden, Vice-President and Director of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. It will contain the research priorities identified at the meeting.

Scientists are deeply concerned: “we’re drifting so fast that we lack the capacity to project”, “we’re lagging behind”, and “the force of global change needs to be put on the political agenda”, explains Lydie Lescarmotier, from the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative.

“The Ross Sea has been protected thanks to 14 years of scientific research”

Cassandra Brooks

“We need to prove that everything is connected to unite causes, for example the Antarctic ice pack loss with extreme climatic events in Brazil,” said Jefferson Cardia Simões. “SCAR is a pioneering organization in scientific diplomacy, one of science’s noblest roles.”

Participants at the symposium organized by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. Image: Philippe Fitte / FPA2

“If there’s a problem with climate change, it’s because the ice is melting,” said H.E. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, calling for a focus on the cryosphere in Iceland at The Arctic Circle Assembly. Last year, we noted the absence of Russian representatives, just as here in Monaco.

The other half of the Arctic

After two years of difficult relations with Russia, Henry Burgess, Director of The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), stated: “We’ve lost data, friendships and potential,” but “it takes patience and respect to listen and learn.” Larry Hinzman, Assistant Director of Polar Sciences at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, called it “a terrible loss”.

Diplomatic cooperation backed up by research has already won some major battles. “The Ross Sea has been protected thanks to 14 years of scientific research,” explained Cassandra Brooks of the University of Colorado Boulder. A project involving CCAMLR, the United States, New Zealand, China and Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Camille Lin, PolarJournal

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