Françoise Gaill, emeritus research director at the CNRS and scientific advisor for the ecology & environment institute (INEE-CNRS) is an ocean specialist. She coordinates the scientific committee of the Ocean & Climate Platform mobilizedf for the COP21.
She collaborates with other scientists to highlight “Ocean” issues during this 21st Climate Conference, and make sure the Ocean is taken into account in the international negotiations. Françoise Gaill discusses the stakes of such a conference for the scientific world.
What does the COP21 represent for the scientific community?
This is one of the few moments when scientists can be seen at the forefront of the international scene addressing in a non-academic manner global challenges, as well as social and political issues. It’s very important for scientists because their knowledge is valued and this is an occasion to show the world what is accomplished inside the labs. Also, society has the opportunity to discover how interesting it is to work with scientists!
What does such a deadline mean for scientists?
Research is the intellectual pleasure of understanding the world through the production of knowledge. To do so, we need time because research is arid and getting results, finding answers is difficult. Researchers are not usually involved in this kind of global event because the academic world doesn’t necessarily value these actions. Young scientists more than others share the desire to participate.
Has your way of working changed?
I have become rather “wise”. Unlike full-time researchers, I don’t produce original results anymore. These days I’m more interested in working on the larger issues around research. This is a good thing because when we’re too academic, after a while we can no longer renew ourselves and risk exhaustion. Constant renewal by asking and addressing questions is crucial.
What is your role?
I have a unifying role in the ocean biosphere. I’m here to bring together scientists from different backgrounds and other ocean stakeholders around the climate change issue. Now I have time to do this. Active researchers can’t afford to stop working for a year. They would lose ground because competition is tough. Now it’s different for me. Everything happened naturally without me really wanting it. In fact, Tara gave me this opportunity.
You’ve found your passion and optimism again…
I’ve returned to my original love. I’m really passionate about the Ocean, about promoting it among the younger generations. And I’m optimistic because the ocean hasn’t been a part of the climate negotiations so far, so it can’t get worse. At some point we will achieve something. To come up with the goal for this COP21, a collective scientific expertise conducted by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) presented hypotheses we can rely upon. We know that an increase in temperature of 2ºC represents a limit not to be exceeded.
Is there a risk of reliving a failure as in Copenhagen in 2009?
We can never be truly safe from failure, even though everything was prepared a year in advance by experienced technicians. Until the last moment, human management is difficult, uncertain to handle. The Copenhagen experience was so terrifying for everyone that we can only hope the same mistakes won’t be reproduced and a minimal agreement on key points will be reached. To date, the Ocean & Climate issues have been particularly highlighted for decision makers, and this in itself is already a big success. Now we have to reach an ambitious agreement.
Interview by Dino Di Meo