Research gaps pulling Africa back in climate negotiations

High altitude balloon launched in Siaya County to help aid research on weather. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

The high cost of publishing climate-related content in top research journals has continued to widen research gaps in Africa, climate experts have said.

The experts revealed that while climate change is a global problem, it is often acute one in Africa yet research focused on Africa remains limited. The experts, drawn from across the continent, held a four-day meeting in Nairobi recently to discuss the knowledge gaps that are unique to the continent.

They revealed that the high cost of publishing in top science journals has continued to keep off African scholars and scientists from publishing African climate-related issues. This, they say, limits African voices when looking for solutions.

“It is acknowledged that high publishing costs continue to keep African scientists/scholars out of top science journals,” the experts said in a statement.

Coupled with weak links between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) National Focal points, universities, and research organizations, the representation of African voices continues to widen.

“It is alarming that only 11 percent of the authors of the sixth IPCC assessment report are from Africa despite being one of the world’s most vulnerable continents to the impacts of climate change,” PS, State Department of Environment and Climate Change Eng Festus Ngeno said.

He added that it was critical to ensure that African voices are well represented when finding solutions.

“Crucial too, is the inclusion of the role of the indigenous and local knowledge systems as well as gender representation,” Ngeno added.

African Group of Negotiators Experts Support team lead Dr George Wamukoya said that to improve the representation of African issues on IPCC assessments, there was a need to fill in existing gaps in knowledge and publish Africa’s science and research in the field of climate change.

“Undoubtedly, there is an urgent need to fill the existing gaps in knowledge as well as anticipate the direction of science and research in the field of climate change and reflect this in published papers.

This will improve the representation of African issues in the IPCC assessments. The question is, how does Africa plan to contribute towards addressing these knowledge gaps?” Dr Wamukoya posed.

African climate research fellow Professor Chokwuemeka Diji said that the meeting sets the groundwork to highlight the exposure and vulnerability of Africa to climate change and its multi-dimensional, socio-economic, and political dimensions.

“We will also need to identify, scale-up, and evaluate the current and future benefits of adaptation to Africa while also including voices of African scientists and scholars,” Prof Diji said.

The meeting was aimed at addressing barriers that African scientists face in IPCC processes and place a support system for them to publish in peer-reviewed journals as well as create awareness and outreach programmes to enhance the National Focal Point’s link with policymakers, research institutions, and universities.