Select Committee on Science and Technology Tenth Report


306. The effects of the oceans upon the weather, the climate and the sustainability of many human economic activities has been established beyond doubt by scientists. What has emerged over recent years is a new awareness of the connection between the air and the sea and the importance of the ocean in terms of a healthy environment and biodiversity. Marine science should therefore be at the heart of a national strategy and effort to find answers to the most topical questions with which humankind is faced. Instead, in the UK, this field of research lacks resources, attention, co-ordination and an official champion. We have been deeply disappointed at the apparent low regard in which marine science and the study of the sea is held by NERC and the Government. We hope that our recommendations for a new agency for marine science and a new champion for the whole marine area will change attitudes for the better.

307. The UK has the capacity to be a world leader in key aspects of marine science, such as coastal work which is vitally important because of climate change and the proportion of the population now living within coastal margins. Overall, we have identified a clear and pressing need for more support for scientists in their investigations of the oceans. At the very beginning of this long inquiry, we were told the story of how the Continuous Plankton Recorder dataset, begun in 1931, was nearly closed a few years ago as a result of NERC cuts. It has gone on to provide some of the most telling evidence that climate change is having an impact on our world. From this example, we take the lesson that the answers to many of our questions lie in the seas and that the UK should be very careful lest short term decisions be taken that unwittingly deprive society of vital pieces of evidence.

308. The ocean is a fascinating environment. It is essential that this quality is used to draw young people into science, to help find the answers to some of the most pressing questions facing this planet and to illustrate to the public at large just how precious are the oceans and how vital it is to the future of our society that scientists and policymakers are given the resources to develop sufficient knowledge both to reap their benefits and to mitigate the worst impacts of environmental change.

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