Living systems are central to the functioning of all the systems on which human society depends, but they have received relatively scant attention in international science and policy negotiations in the past two decades, as the climate scenarios of the IPCC have been widely debated and developed. Understanding the ramifications of changes in climate and increasing human development, and using that understanding to provide meaningful guidance to decision makers, from local communities to international bodies, will required unprecedented cooperation and coordination by members of the international biological science community. The International Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) offers a tool that scientific societies like the ESA, and their memberships, can use to provide that guidance. The IPBES institutional goals for scientific understanding, policy advice, and capacity building are complex challenges, requiring new levels of understanding and cooperation across disciplines, institutions, and national boundaries.
The establishment of the IPBES represents a significant achievement for the international biological research and policy community. Even more, it represents a challenge and an opportunity that – not to put too fine a point on it – could offer renewed hope for survival of more of the components of the web of life and the ecosystems they comprise and on which human societies depend. The talks in this session have laid out the next steps, and the role that the members of the scientific community can play. The Ecological Society of America, as a society, and its membership can be and should be crucial elements of the IPBES development from this point forward. The remainder of the session will be devoted to discussion with the audience and speakers on how ESA and the broader science community can develop a meaningful role in making IPBES into an effective science policy tool.