Over the past two decades, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made progress in involving larger numbers of scientists from the developing world in the preparation of its assessment reports.
"But North-South gaps among IPCC's scientific groups continue to persist," says Roseanne Diab, executive director of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf). Diab made her remarks in the most recent edition of the TWAS Newsletter.
Diab, who served as co-chair the InterAcademy Council's (IAC) report Climate Change Assessments: Review of the Processes and Procedures of the IPCC, drew on the report's findings to note that "governments in developing countries now represent nearly 70% of the IPCC member states. "Their presence," she observes, "has given the South a strong voice in general discussions about the direction of the IPCC."
Yet, she also observes that "when it comes to the detailed research agendas formulated by the scientific community, progress to date has been much more limited. More than 75 percent of the authors of the IPCC's assessment reports," she notes, "still live and work in developed countries."
"The lack of participation by scientists from developing countries can be attributed to the chronic challenges faced by scientists in poor countries with weak scientific infrastructures," Diab says. These challenges include the exclusive use of English to communicate during the preparation of the working group reports, a lack of support by their home institutions, limited access to literature, and the small number of qualified scientists working on climate-change issues.
In the interviews that were conducted during the IAC review, many African scientists called attention to their isolation and the difficulties that they have faced in participating in the IPCC process. Heavy teaching loads and limited, often delayed, access to data and literature are among the most significant obstacles. "Overcoming these challenges," Diab maintains, "will require extensive investment in human capital and scientific infrastructure in developing countries.
Citing the conclusions in IAC report, Diab notes that "full participation by developing countries is necessary to build worldwide trust, confidence and ownership in the process, and to ensure that the effort takes full account of the interests and needs of all countries."
Find the full TWAS Newsletter article below. The article includes a lengthy discussion of the IAC report's recommendations for improving IPCC processes and procedures in light of the criticism levelled against the IPPC concerning some of the statements in its fourth assessment report.