On the eve of International Polar Year, Britain's Science and Innovation Minister Malcolm Wicks is visiting the British Antarctic Survey's Rothera research station this week. During the visit, the Minister will have an opportunity to see first-hand the prestigious Government-funded facility that carries out world-leading research into global environmental issues.
At Rothera he will learn how human impact on the planet is observed in Antarctica. From the discovery of the ozone hole to the unique record of the Earth's past climate found in ice cores, through to the impact that Antarctica has on the global climate system. British Antarctic Survey Director, Professor Chris Rapley CBE, will introduce Mr Wicks to around 100 science and support staff and brief him on the science that underpins and informs international agreements on climate change. Mr Wicks spent one night in the Falklands before boarding the BAS Dash-7 for his flight to Antarctica. He told Penguin News the focus of his visit would essentially be on climate change and global warming, however he added, "...the work that our scientists are doing in Antarctica teaches us a lot more generally about our planet, how it has changed over millions of years, and how, for good or ill, it may be changing in the future." Mr Wicks has only been Science Minister for three months and before that he was Minister for Energy. He said he wanted to learn more about what science has to offer in terms of the "big issues" facing the planet and Britain. But he also wanted to celebrate "the act we are very, very good at science in Britain." He explained, "If you look at the Nobel Prize winners we produce, or at indicators like internationally cited papers, we are second on a whole range of sciences only to the United States. "So, as well as finding out the contribution of science in places like Antarctica, I'd like to recognize and help communicate the fact that this is a major role that Britain is playing, in terms of understanding the beginnings of our planet, what's happened over millions of years, and some of the issues for the future." (PN).-