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African Climate Change Network
Jamais Cascio, 26 Sep 05

Despite being likely to suffer the worst effects of global climate disruption, Africa actually has few climate scientists. A step taken last week could help change that situation, however, boosting support for geophysical sciences in Africa.

A workshop held in Nairobi, Kenya last week heralded the creation of the Africa Network in Earth System Science, a transnational group encouraging the sharing of ideas and resources between organizations working on climate change (as well as other Earth science issues). A major goal of the network will be to address the shortage of good climate and geophysical scientists in Africa.

Capacity building was therefore imperative, [Bob Scholes of South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research] said, adding that African researchers produce only one per cent of scientific articles published in major climate change journals.
The network, planned to launch next year, is intended to help fill this gap. It will gather researchers from national institutions and international bodies such as the International Council for Science, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and the African Academy of Science.

Shem Wandiga, chair of the Pan Africa Committee of START, the System for Research Analysis and Training, told the meeting that Africa needs further — and more accurate — research to better assess its short-, medium- and long-term vulnerability to climate change.

This is one of those pieces of news that heralds a fairly prosaic development -- the creation of an academic cooperation network -- yet has big implications for all of us. As we know from work on "orphan diseases," there are more problems to be studied than there are researchers able and willing to do so. The impact of global climate disruption on Africa will likely remain a secondary issue for most environmental scientists, compared to studies of global systems, local effects in countries able to fund substantive research, and crisis points such as the Siberian permafrost melt.

The creation of an African geophysical science network means that the specific interests and concerns of Africa have a better chance of being given appropriate study; in turn, this means that non-obvious effects with global implications are more likely to be found and studied early on. The success of the Africa Network in Earth System Science is in all of our interests.

The initial home of the Network will be at the Pan African START Secretariat website at the University of Nairobi (site currently down).

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Comments

Why is Africa most likely to suffer the worst effects from climate change?


Posted by: Brock on 26 Sep 05

What about the social sciences? There seems to be inadequate dialogue between the natural and social sciences on this subject (and in general). Whilst a network of African climate scientists is a welcome development in itself, if this network could actually get talking to anthropologists, sociologists etc and include their knowledge in their work, then they would be a large step ahead of many of their counterparts in the North.

We've been looking at the possibility of setting up either an academic journal and/or a book series spanning the natural and social sciences, exploring the social impacts of climate change - it sometimes feels like we're banging our heads against a brick wall. If anyone has any thoughts or leads on this, they'd be gratefully appreciated.


Posted by: Sami Grover on 27 Sep 05

Hi Sami, excellent point. I found this organization, which might be of interest to you:

http://www.ihdp.uni-bonn.de/

"IHDP is an international, interdisciplinary and non-governmental science organization, dedicated to promoting, catalyzing and coordinating research, capacity-building and networking on the human dimensions of global environmental change. It takes a social science perspective on global change and works at the interface between science and practice."


Posted by: Lorenzo on 27 Sep 05

Many thanks Lorenzo,

I have looked at IHDP before briefly, but looks like this might be worth following up again. It is inevitable that the social and natural sciences are going to have to start taking note of each other on this issue, and it does look like it is beginning to happen, it's just frustratingly difficult to pin down what is being done by whome and where. The joys of academia...


Posted by: Sami Grover on 27 Sep 05

A sign of hope: the DR Congo (roughly the size of Western Europe) has around 170 million hectares of arable land. Only 0.7% of it is currently being used. When they were still in charge, the Belgians calculated that the Congo alone could feed 1 billion people easily if the land was used in a rational way (and they calculated this long before the Green Revolution - so let's say the Congo can potentially feed 1.5 billion people).
Moreover, 70% of all the precipitation on the African continent occurs in Congo.

In short, the DRC holds the key to the future of Africa. It can feed the entirety of the continent, even when it keeps growing at the untenable rate of 2.5%. There are no predictions which show that the rain patterns over the Congo will change anywhere soon.

So we obviously need a monster Congo initiative. I know the Belgians are the only ones really doing anything in that gigantic country, but then, they're the petits belges. They could use some help. Anyone out there?


Posted by: Lorenzo on 27 Sep 05

The entire region falls apart too often for a big project of that sort to work.

Even the heavy hand of oil companies cant keep things running for long and they know they only have a few years maybe longer before the entire region burns.


Posted by: wintermane on 27 Sep 05

The entire region falls apart too often for a big project of that sort to work.


But that would precisely be "the project": to make sure that the region does not fall apart.

Let's see what the elections in the DRC give, next year. They decide Africa's future.


Posted by: Lorenzo on 28 Sep 05



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