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News | Friday, 12 April 2024

From sustainable agriculture to AI: G7 science academies present statements for the G7 Summit

From sustainable agriculture to AI: G7 science academies present statements for the G7 Summit

Image: Palazzo Quirinale

International sources of tension are causing increasing social pressure and exacerbating the crises caused by the pandemic and climate change. In order to be prepared for future pandemics, ensure sustainable food security for the world’s growing population, or preserve humanity’s cultural heritage, multilateral collaboration is essential. The science academies of the G7 states published six statements with proposed courses of action regarding pressing global challenges.

The academies call upon the G7 states to address the topics of agriculture, artificial intelligence, cultural heritage, health, nuclear arms control, and social inequalities at this year’s G7 summit in Apulia, Italy. The statements were written under the direction of the Italian Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei with the involvement of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.

“International conflicts and war intensify poverty and starvation throughout the world and increase the risk of new pandemics and the irreversible loss of our cultural heritage. In their six statements, the science academies of the G7 states offer strategies for addressing these challenges through basic research, knowledge transfer, and international cooperation,” says Professor (ETHZ) Dr Gerald Haug, President of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. “Collaboration among nations and between scientific disciplines as well as with local stakeholders are key factors in developing solutions for sustainable agriculture, the fight against extreme poverty, preparations for new pandemics, protection of cultural heritage, and approaches to AI.”

The growing global population, the effects of climate change, and the loss of biodiversity are putting agriculture under pressure. Global food production must be increased without further contributing to climate and environmental change. This also requires sustainable nutritional and consumption habits. The science academies of the G7 states call for global availability of research and innovation regarding adaptation to the consequences of climate change as well as availability of opportunities for training and continuing education. To this end, appropriate study programmes should be created and local knowledge should be incorporated into research and innovation. The S7 academies propose investments to the G7 states in order to ensure and monitor microbial biodiversity in soil, more effectively capture, use, and recycle water, and develop seeds for resilient and drought-adapted crops and make these globally available. Furthermore, international agricultural trade should be structured in such a way that sustainably cultivated foods receive preferential treatment.

Artificial Intelligence
The advancements in the development of artificial intelligence offer numerous opportunities for the economy, science, and societies. However, this phenomenon is also associated with risks, which must be monitored and controlled. The science academies of the G7 states propose clear framework conditions for data protection and copyright issues. Users of AI systems should be transparently informed about the usage of their data as well as about the functional mechanisms and limits of artificial intelligence. The traceability of the data used in AI models is of critical importance. Education and public discourse can help societies better understand the chances, risks, and evaluation of AI systems. The S7 academies emphasise the importance of ethical principles in relation to the development and monitoring of AI systems and propose intensive collaboration between the academic disciplines of information technology, the humanities, and social sciences in order to foster transparent, fair AI that is as unbiased as possible. Furthermore, experts say the G7 states should provide particular support to the development of AI systems dedicated to serving the public good.  

Cultural Heritage
Cultural heritage is the foundation of human identity. According to the S7 academies, preserving and comprehending cultural heritage contribute to understanding and meeting both present and future challenges. They propose intensifying interdisciplinary collaboration between natural, social, and humanities scientists in order to research cultural heritage while simultaneously incorporating the knowledge of local stakeholders. Scientific practice can help societies to accept contradictions, reinterpret old knowledge, and thus protect cultural heritage from ideological misappropriation. The statement emphasises the important role of exchange and communication. A critical public must be created which has the tools to evaluate its own cultural heritage while also giving equal credence to the cultural heritage of others. Museums and schools as well as digital platforms and interactive and multi-media offers should be strengthened in this vein. The S7 academies also propose clear, decisive action against the illegal trade of cultural items and against the destruction of cultural sites and objects in the course of armed conflicts. The intentional destruction of cultural heritage is a violation of human rights.  

The COVID-19 pandemic disclosed weak points in the resilience of healthcare systems as well as of international cooperation. In order to better face future pandemics, the S7 academies propose structures for identifying new potential pathogens, exchanging data, and establishing biomonitoring (e.g. for wastewater). New technologies for rapid development of vaccines and medications should be prioritised in research. The S7 academies caution against the overuse of antibiotics to avoid antimicrobial resistance. The development of new antibiotics should be supported, as should the development of alternatives to antibiotic treatment (e.g. monoclonal antibodies or treatment based on CRISPR-Cas technology). According to the experts, the concept of health should also be understood more broadly to include factors such as social determinants of health and universal access to healthcare. Medical research must more readily include women and children. The statement also emphasises the close connection between human health and climate and environmental change.

Nuclear Arms Control
Following a prolonged period of decline in the number of nuclear warheads, there is now a risk of this trend being reversed. In the context of international tensions and based on a number of scientific publications which have already assessed the consequences of nuclear warfare, the scientific academies of the G7 states comment on the grave human and environmental effects of the use of nuclear weapons. They emphasise the importance of international agreements committed to reducing and controlling nuclear weapons and, in light of the increase in global tensions and wars, they call upon the heads of state of the G7 countries to once again reaffirm their commitment against the use of nuclear weapons and to pursue the steps necessary to achieving this goal.

Social Inequalities
Over the past 30 years, the global poverty rate has declined sharply. However, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an increase in extreme poverty. Poverty is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. In addition to income poverty, factors including the effects of ill health or malnutrition, lack of clean water, electricity or formal education, and poor working conditions play a role. To combat poverty, the science academies of the G7 states propose a change in strategy which better reflects this multi-dimensionality. To this end, reliable infrastructure (e.g. for water, food, energy, and healthcare) must be created and access to education ensured. Particular focus should be placed on women and other marginalised groups. This includes combating gender-based violence and fostering participation by discriminated demographics. In particular, the S7 academies advocate for the support of nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, as this region is the most at risk in the world in terms of a variety of risk factors and dimensions of inequality while simultaneously being particularly affected by the consequences of climate change.  

The science academies accompany the annual summits of the G7 states. In the run up to the summit, they address scientific, agenda-related issues that require multilateral action. The G7 Summit is scheduled for 13 to 15 June 2024 in Italy.