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Science is key to solving our climate change challenges

Science, and the rigorous examination and evaluation of data, is the foundation of modern society. In the harnessing of electricity, the exploration of space, the elimination of polio, or the development of the internet, to name a few examples, we have used science and the scientific method to reach unprecedented heights in human development.

There is probably no issue more dependent on data and good science today, than climate change. Although there are certainly a few loud voices determined to keep their heads buried in the sand, the overwhelming scientific consensus is clear and the data undeniable - we are in a state of global climate crisis. Our path through this crisis will require a concerted effort to invest in data and make full use of our scientific communities to create adaption and resilience polices based, not on what we want to believe, but on what the evidence tells us is real.

In June, I took part in my last Conference of the Pacific Community as this organization’s director-general. SPC has been the Pacific’s leader in technical and scientific work for more than 70 years, but the importance of this organization’s role has become increasing significant in more recent times. Appropriately, the Conference theme focused on ocean science, and how fundamental a role this science will play in a sustainable future.

Our membership is well aware of the crisis we face, and at the Conference, endorsed the development of a regional strategy for the collection of scientific and technical ocean data and information. This will translate the Blue Pacific narrative into regional, national and local action for sustainable management of the Pacific Ocean. Ministers also endorsed SPC as the entity responsible for collecting, managing and interpreting the regional datasets that will underpin this work.

More significantly, the conference supported two important projects which I believe will be key for our region - the Pacific Community Centre for Ocean Science (PCCOS) and the Pacific Data Hub.

PCCOS brings together scientific information spread across SPC in the Fisheries and Marine Resources (FAME) Division, the Geosciences Energy and Maritime (GEM) Division and elsewhere. For the first time we will have in place a consolidated and dedicated Pacific Ocean resource and service, allowing our 26 Pacific members to better coordinate their efforts on ocean science, based on the experience and knowledge held across this region.

The Pacific Data Hub creates a portal of all scientific data and information in the Pacific, not only from SPC, but also from our partners and scientific colleagues working throughout the region. This single ‘gateway’ will provide a simple access point to Pacific data, allowing scientists and researchers from across the Pacific and around the world to better understand our region, and the central role it plays in the global effort to tackle climate change. The Pacific has long been left as a ‘data gap’ in international reporting due to the fragmentation of our data, and the Pacific Data Hub will finally provide a way to close that gap.

The choice of SPC for these projects is a natural one. Science is at the heart of this organization’s identity, it is it’s ‘raison d’être’. SPC must continue to be the champion for science in the region, showcasing the important work being done by our members, amplifying their voice in the global forum, and providing comprehensive, reliable and complete data for effective policy development.

While I will be departing SPC at the end of this year, I will not become any less of an advocate for good science in its role in creating good policy. I am honoured and pleased to be joining the International Science Council, where I will bring my scientific passion and advocacy to a global level and continue to fight for science as the key to solving our climate change challenges. (SPC)

Dr Colin Tukuitonga is the director general of Pacific Community.

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