By Jamais Cascio; posted on September 26, 2005
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).
It's nice to see Jamais' byline on WC again, even just as a retro piece.