Climate Change Modifies the Composition of Reefs

Corals devastated by climate change are being replaced naturally by other species such as gorgonians, which are less efficient in acting as a carbon sink.

ICTA-UAB launches the first master’s Degree in “Political Ecology. Degrowth and Environmental Justice”

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) launches the master’s Degree in “Political Ecology.

Pioneering study analyses the effects of forests on human health

A group of volunteers have participated in an experimental study conducted by the ICTA-UAB to analyse the potential health benefits of forests.

Marine Litter on Mediterranean Beaches Triples in Summer

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) analyses and quantifies the waste generated by tourists in eight islands of the Mediterranean as part of the European BLUEISLANDS project.

Mapping the Urban Vitality of Barcelona

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Agricultural intensification not a “blueprint” for sustainable development

Social and ecological results of increased agricultural intensification are not as positive as expected.

Green urban planning must consider social equity criteria

Cities that do not include social equity criteria into their political strategies to make their urban environment greener and more ecological will not achieve long-term sustainability and risk creating green enclaves only for the social elite.

The ICTA-UAB alerts of a new invasive Asian beetle pest in Catalonia that kills mulberry trees

A study by researcher of the ICTA-UAB and the Department of Agriculture Víctor Sarto i Monteys has identified in the province of Barcelona the presence of a species from Asia that could spread through Europe.

More than 120 ICTA-UAB researchers addressed environmental challenges at a symposium, especially those arising from global and...

The Institut of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) organized its 1st Spring Symposium with the aim of addressing some of the main environmental and sustainability challenges.

Low-carbon energy transition requires more renewables than previously thought

A new study by ICTA-UAB analyzes the impacts on lifestyles of substituting fossil fuels for cleaner energies.

Are Farmers Who Belong to Local User Associations Better Adapted to Climate Change?

Droughts, floods and high temperatures derived from climate change are not the only threats that farmers with irrigated crops must face.

Climate Change Threatens World's Largest Seagrass Carbon Stores

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Amazon's indigenous people hunt animals feeding in areas contaminated by oil spills

A study by the ICTA-UAB and the UAB Department of Animal Health and Anatomy demonstrates that the main species hunted by the indigenous popoulations of the Peruvian Amazon ingest water and soil contaminated with hidrocarbons and heavy metals.

The new Planttes app warns of allergy risks in different urban areas

The Planttes application is a citizen science project which aims to encourage people to identify and locate on a map the existence of allergy-causing plants and indicate their phenological state.

New Project to Link Extreme Weather Events, Atmospheric Biodiversity and Human Health

A new ICTA-UAB project led by researcher Jordina Belmonte will study the effects of extreme meteorological events on the biological biodiversity present in the atmosphere in order to predict changes in the environment and possible affectations on human health.

ICTA-UAB’s success: five ERC grants in two years

The Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) has been awarded five European Research Council (ERC) grants in two years, which is about ten per cent of all ERC grants arriving in Catalonia over the period from the end of 2015 to the end of 2017.

New ICTA-UAB 'Welcome Guide'

The new ICTA-UAB 'Welcome Guide' it is at your disposal now. With this document, we aim to help you discover the basics of the PhD programme, ICTA-UAB’s structure, etc.
News
The ICTA-UAB Will Assess, in Collaboration with EU Staff, the Effectiveness of EU Sustainability Policies

Date: 2016-06-02

The EU Project MAGIC (H2020) coordinated by the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) has the goal to study and develop new strategies for a better use of science for governance. 

The project will consider the existing directives and processes of evaluation of technical innovations by looking at the quality of the scientific evidence used in the process of decision making.  The goal is to avoid the use of “scientific evidence” based on excessive simplifications, leading to decisions that ignore relevant information, the existence of contrasting but legitimate perspectives about the issue to be tackled, and the unavoidable presence of large doses of uncertainty.


Very often policies enforced by the European Union to deal with the issue of sustainability are based on “scientific evidence” that is based on scientific models which do not consider the full range of implications of the chosen problem across different scales and dimensions of analysis.  As a result of this fact, “scientific evidence” based on reductionist science not always tackles relevant issues and very rarely proves to be effective in providing the expected results.
 
This is the starting assumption of the MAGIC project coordinated by the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) which has been funded with 7.5 million Euros by the European Union (Programme Horizon 2020).  The project aims to analyze the role of “scientific evidence” in the process of decision making within the European Union and carry out a reflection together with EU staff about the possibility of adopting more effective procedures when using science in the process of governance.

The title of the Project is “Moving towards Adaptive Governance in Complexity: Informing Nexus Security” and the consortium coordinated by ICTA-UAB includes eight more partners from Spain, Scotland, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy and Germany, plus the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

The proposed model is that of “co-production of useful information” in which a trans-disciplinary team of researchers – integrating different disciplinary expertise – will work together with EU staff in order to identify relevant issues to be considered in the problem structuring and develop an effective integrated analysis supplying useful information for the decision making process.  This model of co-production should guarantee a better quality for the scientific evidence needed to implement the Strategy 2020 of the EU and a better informed discussion at the international level on global questions such as climate change and food security.

MAGIC will start with a critical appraisal of the existing narratives about sustainability, proposing alternative views and “thinking out of the box”.  In particular, the critical appraisal will be based on a quantitative analysis based on the concept of the nexus: establishing a link between food security, energy security, water security (in relation to the patterns of consumption), climate and land use.  This integrated analysis across multiple scales is based on an innovative approach mixing theoretical concepts developed in complex systems theory, system ecology, bio-economics and science and technology studies.

This integrated approach will be applied to two lines of discussions: (i) an analysis of the factors to be considered when dealing with the assessment of technical innovations – e.g. fracking, second generation of biofuels, technical changes required for a circular economy, what to do with Genetically Modified Organisms, the potential role of desalination; and (ii) a critical appraisal of the existing directives used for dealing with the predicament of sustainability.  The goal is to generate a reflection on the risks associated with an excessive confidence in the “Cartesian dream” that science can given to humans the power of absolute prediction and control.  “Every time we base our decision on the quantitative output of models based on the adoption of just a single scientific discipline and scale at the time, we are missing alternative narratives about the identified problem that can be perceived only using different disciplines and scales.  This implies that the consequences of the chosen policies not only are unknown, but also that they may be counterproductive in relation to the original goal”, says Mario Giampietro, ICREA Researcher at ICTA-UAB and coordinator of the project.  “A clear example of this fact has been given by the production of the first generation of biofuels.  The large demand of land, water and other resources needed to generate biofuels implied a major negative effect on food security in many areas of the world”, explains Giampietro.

An analysis based on the nexus between water, energy, food, and land use at the scale of the whole planet in relation to the implication for the population and the climate will make easier to detect systemic problems or negative consequences of innovations and policies implemented by the European Union.

The project is organized in three structural/functional components: a “Nexus Dialogue Space” coordinated by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, which will guarantee the collaboration of the researchers with staff of the European Commission (in the different DGs and other EU institutions);  “Nexus Information Space”, which will coordinate and integrate the scientific assessment of the different teams expert in food production, energy, water and land use, in order to guarantee the congruence with the constraints provided by the nexus, and a “Nexus Knowledge Hub”, an interactive platform used to bring into the discussion other social actors such as the industry, NGOs, Universities, and the rest of society.

The impact expected from the MAGIC project is twofold: (i) the generation of new methodologies and procedures to guarantee a quality control on the process of production and use of scientific information in the process of decision making.  This result will be particularly relevant for the policy makers (in this case the DGs of the EU), which will have analytical tools capable of better handling the implication of complexity, such as the unavoidable presence of uncertainty, the co-existence of legitimate but contrasting perspectives about what to do, the implication of the existence of multiple scales; (ii) a critical appraisal and an informed reflection on the feasibility, viability and desirability of the policies actually implemented by the EU – e.g. water directive, CAP (agricultural policy), low-carbon economy, circular economy – and a critical appraisal of the methods currently used to discuss the pros and cons of innovations – e.g. fracking, biofuels, tradable permits, GMOs, desalination.

The other partners of the consortium led by ICTA-UAB are: Hutton Institute James (Scotland), Wageningen University (The Netherlands), Twente University (The Netherlands), University of Bergen (Norway), European Commission - Joint Research Centre, University of Naples Federico II (Italy), Climate Analytics (Germany), and the Institute of Technology of Canary Islands (Spain).

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