Landmark Antarctic science gathering in Canberra

Thursday 11 November 2004

The gurus of Australian Antarctic Science program are outlining to policy makers in Canberra how their research into global climate change will inform future decisions on our land, water and economy generally.

Chief Scientist of Australia's Antarctic Program Dr Michael Stoddart said that Australia's environmental future could be read in Antarctica's vast ice sheets, ever-changing sea ice fringe, mysterious atmosphere and unique, embracing ecosystem – the Southern Ocean.

"Antarctica is the engine room of the world's climate and our research is revealing the trends that we need to understand to plan for our future.

"This information is critical to our land planners, our fisheries regulators and our policy makers generally. This is the first time our scientists have met face to face with policy makers in this type of forum to develop a deeper understanding of the emerging issues," Dr Stoddart said.

The two day meeting – 'The role of Antarctic Research in Australian Science and Police Advice' has brought together more than 100 people.

It is the first time this eminent group has met giving scientists the opportunity to talk directly to those responsible for setting Australia's policy directions.

Australia spends around $110 million annually on Antarctic scientific research and runs a large and diverse program in the Antarctic, subantarctic and Southern Ocean.

This research contributes to National Research priorities and supports the Australian Government's role in the Antarctic Treaty System and enhances our influence in it.

Dr Stoddart said that Australia was a significant and respected contributor to Antarctic research on the world stage and that much of the research involved our participation in major international research programs.

"The research we do informs decisions affecting policy development on a range of issues such as fishing, weather predictions, climate and the environment, as well as protection as the Antarctic environment itself.

"In particular, the Antarctic research program provides the scientific advice which underpins Australia position in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), and to several climate and environment-related policies and other international agreements," Dr Stoddart said.

"We need to be sure that Australia's Antarctic Science Program continues to be relevant into the future.

"One of the aims of this conference is to provide a better understanding to decision makers and the broader public of the value of Australia's considerable investment in Antarctic science.

"Australia's Antarctic Territory is 42% of the continent. So we have a huge responsibility to contribute to the growing body of scientific knowledge about Antarctica.

"We need to get it right and make sure that scientists and policy makers understand each others' view points," Dr Stoddart said.