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SDG 14 | LIFE BELOW WATER

Providing ocean climate science for sustainable decision-making

How can the academic community make an impact to get vital information on climate change across to decision-makers? By engaging in the type of quiet science advice provided by Benjamin Pfeil and his team at the University of Bergen.

Data manager Benjamin Pfeil from the University of Bergen and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research photographed in Bergen in summer 2019.
CLIMATE INDICATORS: Benjamin Pfeil and his group at the University of Bergen and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research have long supplied decision-makers internationally with scientific data on changes in ocean climate.
Photo:
Jens Helleland Ådnanes, University of Bergen

In 2005, Benjamin Pfeil started to specialise in data management for marine biogeochemistry data in the field of climate research at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research at the University of Bergen.

“Our community works and collaborates on a global basis and I got involved in global data synthesis especially for high quality marine carbon dioxide data. Over the years we established the Bjerknes Climate Data Centre, the group grew and now we and other select institutions are responsible for marine carbon data management for the European Research Infrastructure Integrated Carbon Observation Systems (ICOS) and responsible for carbon data within Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Services,” explains Pfeil.

His work fits into the special assignments the University of Bergen has on SDG14, Life below water, as Hub institution for United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and leader for the IAU SDG14 Team as appointed by the International Association of Universities (IAU).

A focus on ocean climate

In 2012, Pfeil became a member of the committee for the International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project and soon after for the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network – both are organised directly under the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO).

Pfeil and his group are mainly providing data for SDG target 14.3, to minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels.

“The target 14.3 of SDG14 has its main focus on ocean acidification where access to high quality data marine carbon data is key,” he says, “and the Bjerknes Climate Data Centre has a close connection to the global scientific community. I was invited by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission to join the group to define the methodology for the SDG target since most data centres do not focus on data related to this target.”

Reaching international bodies

Pfeil's research group contributes with ocean acidification data to international bodies.

“Many assume that for the SDG targets access to publications is enough, but direct data access is key to understanding complex relations, patterns and principles. Our job is to make data easily accessible and usable without losing any information. Many data centres are specialised to make data available that follows established protocols, but this is often not the case for complex data from different subject groups across the scientific community,” says Pfeil.

“In collaboration with colleagues and the global scientific community we provide SDG14 relevant data to the annual Global Carbon Budgets of the Global Carbon Project, Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Services, climate change modelling communities, and to partner European and global data networks and data centres.”

Practical purposes and partnerships

For Pfeil and his group getting this information out is an important part of the societal impact of their science, and he is pleased to see the data gathered making a difference when it comes to decision-making towards securing global sustainable development.

“Data is often used for global or regional assessments of sinks and sources of carbon dioxide, tracking the impact of emissions, indicating trends in pH changes and to understand the related influences on marine ecosystems. Climate change modellers use those data for their simulations of future scenarios and high level reports like the IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” he says.

Partnerships are a key element both of the 2030 Agenda and for Pfeil's group.

“For years we have working relations with international panels such as the marine biogeochemistry panel for UNESCO’s Global Ocean Observing System, UNESCO’s and IAEA’s Global Ocean Acidification Observing network, IAEA’s Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre (OA-ICC), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO), European Research Infrastructures and ESFRI, Global Carbon Project, Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Services and European data sharing networks,” he says.

“The main key has been a close connection to the scientific community in the field, data centres and to other programmes in the field like the US Ocean Acidification Project. In addition we have MoUs with relevant partners in the field.”

Research towards the 2030 Agenda

Pfeil's group is involved in several projects funded by the Research Council of Norway and the EU, many of which refer to the 2030 Agenda.

“The most direct one is our work with the Research Infrastructure ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation Systems), where we develop state of the art software for data quality control,” says Pfeil, “in other relevant projects we are responsible for making data accessible and/or laying the framework for data products that are relevant for the 2030 Agenda.”

The University of Bergen's strategic decision to establish initiatives such as SDG Bergen Science Advice and Ocean Sustainability Bergen as part of the university's overall engagement with the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda, fit very well with the work that Pfeil and his research colleagues have been doing for years.

“Our data management work already covers more than just one SDG target, but is a good showcase of what can be done. Not the least it shows possibilities for other marine communities at the University of Bergen and in the overall Bergen science community,” says Benjamin Pfeil.