2010 Kavli Prize Science Forum Opening Address Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway

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Opening Address to the 2010 Kavli Prize Science Forum
Presented September 6, 2010; Gamle Festsal, Oslo, Norway

 Jonas Gahr Støre

JONAS GAHR STØRE is the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs. A post he has held since 2005, prior to his appointment, he was the Secretary General of the Norwegian Red Cross. In his career, his many appointments include serving as the State Secretary and Chief of Staff for the Office of the Prime Minister, Chief of Staff of the World Health Organization, and Ambassador to the Norwegian Mission to the UN in Geneva. (FULL PROFILE)

On September 6, Minister Støre addressed the Kavli Prize Science Forum, a biennial international forum to facilitate high-level, global discussion of major topics on science and science policy, held in conjunction with the Kavli Prize Science Week and Ceremony. Along with the audio presentation (above), Minister Støre's prepared remarks are provided below.

PREPARED REMARKS

Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends,

In a speech at Yale University in May this year, former President Bill Clinton told graduating seniors about the recent scientific discovery that life is possible because there is more positive matter in the universe than negative.

And, Clinton continued, “If that is true, it is a metaphor for how you have to live... The mission of every citizen in the world has to be to build up the positive and reduce the negative forces of our interdependence... The goal should be the non-zero sum game, that is, finding solutions to the world’s problems in which everybody wins.”

Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway, presents his opening address. (Scanpix)Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway, presents his opening address. (Scanpix)

Life is possible because there is more positive matter in the universe – I think that means you!

So, I would like to thank you for inviting me to the Kavli Prize Science Forum this afternoon. I am honoured to address this distinguished audience of scientists. I am honoured to welcome you to Oslo, and I am pleased to be given this opportunity to share a few perspectives on a highly relevant theme – the role of international cooperation in science.

However, some of you may ask - and I have asked myself this – why is a Norwegian Foreign Minister present at such an event as this? Isn’t this a theme beyond the world of diplomacy and inter-state relations?

No – it isn’t. It is well within this world – my world.

First, because science and research form the foundation for how to understand the world in which we are living in today.

Second, because science and research provide the basic raw material for my profession – foreign policy and diplomacy – and so for my job as Foreign Minister.

Third, because the world of science and research has large worldwide networks that are so vital for facing the world’s global challenges, together.

So, this is why I am here.

In the last instance, political decisions are based on human considerations and human trade-offs. Although there is a discipline called political science, politics and foreign policy are not science. But we – as ministers, parliamentarians and politicians, at national and local levels – cannot consider or decide on the right political actions unless the facts have been established. Our room for manoeuvre as politicians is in large part shaped by the knowledge you – as scientists – produce.

The 2010 Kavli Prize Science Forum, held in the  Gamle Festsal at the University of Oslo, Norway. (Scanpix)The 2010 Kavli Prize Science Forum, held in the  Gamle Festsal at the University of Oslo, Norway. (Scanpix)

As I see it, it has never been more timely for a Foreign Minister to devote interest, attention – and even at times passion – to science cooperation than it is today, given the character of many of the challenges we are facing. Because these challenges are complex: they are national and they are international at the same time; they are trans-national and global. This is indeed an arena that challenges traditional decision-making.

Let me also thank the man who has made this Science Prize possible, Mr Fred Kavli, who is present here today. He moved to the “land of opportunities” on the other side of the Atlantic as a young man, after completing his Engineering degree at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. And in 1958 he founded the Kavlico Corporation in Los Angeles, which produces sensors for aeroplanes and cars.

This – as we all know – has been a true success story, an “American dream”. Mr Kavli has demonstrated the huge potential of combining new knowledge with good entrepreneurship. His list of achievements is impressive; it stands out. We are all grateful to Mr Kavli and the Kavli Foundation for establishing the biannual International Science Prize in 2008 – and not least for locating it here in Oslo, in cooperation with the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Among the most complex of today’s global issues are climate change and the question of how to build sustainable economies and societies for the future.

As governments we are called to order by science, if I may say so. Scientists will continue to weigh the evidence. But the message is clear: man-made climate change is beyond doubt – and we need to act.

 

Our decision-making processes, however, are mainly carried out within the nation state. This has been the organising logic and pattern of the international system for almost four centuries.

The challenges posed by climate change alter fundamentally the foundation for this logic. It is not new to find that certain major issues have to be dealt with by nation states together. But as far as climate change is concerned this is absolutely the case.

John P. Holdren, science advisor to US President Barack Obama, presenting his keynote address at the 2010 Kavli Prize Science Forum.John P. Holdren, science advisor to US President Barack Obama, presenting his keynote address at the 2010 Kavli Prize Science Forum. (Scanpix)

So, here is a challenge – and an opportunity: it is therefore obvious that international cooperation has a role in science – as the title of the Forum indicates and as the members of today’s panel have proven. But the reverse is also true: science has a role in international cooperation and foreign policy in general.

I believe that we must focus more on the links between the scientific community and the political system. Although we have distinctive roles to play, cooperation and better communication between us will be vital. This is exactly what the Forum’s task today is, to provide a meeting place for both science and policy, from Asia, America and Europe.

Then there is another dilemma that we are facing: how to distinguish between probability and certainty?

There will always be uncertainty related to scientific results. In fact, scientific development depends on debate and critical questions. I often think that scientists should speak out more loudly, raise their voices, put the facts, the pros and contras straight on the table, be more definite in their conclusions, and less careful or cautious, so to speak.

Scientists’ findings should be a key ingredient in our decision-making, and not least in our communications to the public at large.

Because we depend on the public being aware of the dangers as well as opportunities.

One major hurdle to sound decision-making based on scientific input is the power of the so-called “merchants of doubt” – those forces who actively use uncertainty to play down the issue, or even to kill the issue. The tobacco industry became (in)famous for this when it systematically downplayed the evidence for all the risks linked to tobacco and smoking. Now, similar forces are at play in the climate change debate.

I experienced this when former Vice-President Al Gore and I presented a report on melting ice in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate conference last year. The uncertainty intervals in a number of the assessments were presented as proof that there is nothing to worry about.

Of course, we must be vigilant and ready to scrutinise science, as well as politics. The recently published assessment of the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has criticised the way the IPCC has been working. I regard the assessment as important input to the ongoing efforts to improve the quality of science.

However, these findings should not draw focus away from necessary action. On an issue such as climate change, we have to let the precautionary principle lead the way. And we must not forget: the recent assessment has not questioned the very basic, underlying fact that climate change is caused by human beings. And only human beings can change it.

Now, related to this, I will turn north, to the Arctic, the High North – a key area for understanding the effects of climate change, for example the rate at which ice is melting.

Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, the first Secretary General of the European Research Council and now the  Secretary General of the Human Frontier Science Program, presenting his keynote address. (Scanpix)Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, the first Secretary General of the European Research Council and now the  Secretary General of the Human Frontier Science Program, presentng his keynote address. (Scanpix)

The High North is the Norwegian Government’s number one foreign policy priority. This is the part of Norway’s neighbouring areas where most change is taking place, where we have the most interests to safeguard, and where Norway has both a responsibility and the ability to make a difference.

We have a strong focus on science and research in our High North policy. Many of the challenges the world is facing today are visible right there, in this region. It is in the polar areas we first see the impacts of climate change, although its effects may be felt more severely elsewhere. This is where we can find useful information not only on how we can prevent negative impacts in the region itself, but also on the effects that the melting ice will have on the rest of the world.

Drawing a line to one of the disciplines of the Kavli Prize, namely astrophysics, I could mention the establishment of the EISCAT radar system (the European Incoherent Scatter facility) located in Svalbard – at 78 degrees north in the northernmost part of Norway – which many international scientists are already using.

Another example is the Barents Watch project – an integrated maritime surveillance system for the increased maritime traffic in the High North. Ships are now sailing from Europe to Asia through the North-East Passage. Barents Watch will provide us with real-time information about the environment, weather conditions, marine resources and human activity. Systems like this would not have been possible without extensive international science and research cooperation.

I should also highlight our scientific cooperation with Russia, and the role this has played in creating new partnerships with our Russian neighbours. We have established a successful science-based resource management system for fish and marine resources with our Russian friends in the High North. Unreported fishing of cod in the Barents Sea, which used to be a serious problem, has been significantly reduced over the last few years. The most recent figures from the Coast Guard show that no over-fishing was reported in these waters at all in 2009. We are proud of this achievement, and it bodes well for sustainable science-based resource management in the future.

We also need scientists to examine more closely the impact of developing new renewable and non-renewable resources in the Arctic, and of using new commercial sea routes as the sea ice recedes further. Otherwise it will not be possible to ensure sustainable economic development in the region. Knowledge is key for developing the region and if we don’t have the necessary knowledge, we must invest in new knowledge.

Therefore the Norwegian Government has allocated a total of NOK 23.6 billion (approximately USD 375 million) in 2010 to research and development in general. NOK 615 million (approximately USD 100 million) of these funds has been earmarked for research in the north in connection with the follow-up of the High North Strategy.

Why? Because investing in research and science must be the hallmark of a modern society such as Norway that is venturing into new areas. In addition, it offers such huge potential for developing further our constructive relations with Russia and other countries, as well as for broader foreign policy efforts.

2010 Kavli Prize Science Forum panelists. Left to right: Charles M. Vest (moderator), President, US National Academy; Nils Christian Stenseth, President, Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters; Ralph Cicerone, President, US National Academy of Sciences; Ichiro Kanazawa, President, Science Council of Japan; Steven E. Koonin, Under Secretary of Science, US Department of Energy; Yongxiang Lu, President, Chinese Academy of  Sciences; Martin ReesPresident, The Royal Society, United Kingdom; keynote speakers Holdren and Winnecker. (Scanpix)2010 Kavli Prize Science Forum panelists. Left to right: Charles M. Vest (moderator), President, US National Academy; Nils Christian Stenseth, President, Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters; Ralph Cicerone, President, US National Academy of Sciences; Ichiro Kanazawa, President, Science Council of Japan; Steven E. Koonin, Under Secretary of Science, US Department of Energy; Yongxiang Lu, President, Chinese Academy of  Sciences; Martin ReesPresident, The Royal Society, United Kingdom; keynote speakers Holdren and Winnecker. (Scanpix)

The International Polar Year (IPY), which was concluded with a major science conference in Lillestrøm outside Oslo in June, gathering 2 300 polar researchers from nearly 50 countries, showed what it is possible to achieve when international academics and researchers get together with a common focus and goal.

The IPY lifted polar research to a new level, and the participating 50 000 researchers and technicians from more than 60 nations have demonstrated the value of international cooperation in practice. Norway is the fifth largest polar research nation in the world. This makes you – scientists and researchers – key drivers, key players, in the efforts to meet our global challenges, be it in the Arctic or in other regions or fields.

One of the lessons we learned from the IPY was that although our knowledge is increasing, there is still so much that we do not fully understand and that needs to be further studied.

So, dear scientists, the world needs your insights, and the world needs your cooperation across frontiers and waters - more than ever - in order to ensure that we go in the right direction.

How can we as politicians help to make this happen?

We must – among other things – ensure adequate and balanced recruitment and training of young experts in the most important fields.

And to achieve this, we must provide good education and research facilities and secure international exchange programmes for scientists and students.

While the governments of the world have the prime responsibility, we are also dependent on the involvement of the private sector. We all know how important large philanthropic donations to promote world class science and research have been, especially in countries like the one Fred Kavli moved to.

Through the Kavli Foundation, Mr Kavli is making sure that the best scientists from all over the world can carry out research and develop new knowledge at various universities – in order to help us to meet the global challenges of our time in the best possible way.

We have to be well prepared – be it in the High North or elsewhere. For Norway’s part we must aim to be the leading knowledge nation in the north: we need knowledge about the natural world, the environment, resources, new and existing economic activities, geopolitics – knowledge that can provide a basis for new industries and increase value creation in existing industries.

Value creation in the north, in Norway, is not achieved by means that are different to those employed in other parts of the world. It is a question of combining knowledge, resources, labour and capital – ideas, money and people. This is hard work, and it requires bold but feasible plans and international cooperation. As Bill Clinton put it, the goal should be “finding solutions to the world’s problems in which everybody wins”.

Thank you.