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Fighting climate change: Are scientists hemispheres apart?

Climate Change
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An iceberg broken off from a melting glacier floats in Lake Argentino, Argentina.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
An iceberg broken off from a melting glacier floats in Lake Argentino, Argentina.
M any of the landmark events of 2016 were controversial, but surely the signing of the Paris accord by the world’s largest polluters was welcomed by all but those who ignore the evidence and continue to deny climate change?

Not necessarily. The political limitations of the deals like the Paris agreement are well-documented. Now, findings published in Nature Climate Change have highlighted a potential flaw in the science on which they are based: a North-South divide in climate research.

Currently, climate change policies are based on research largely performed by northern countries. The lack of input from the southern hemisphere may make them less effective as they could otherwise be, and also hinder their implementation.

The impact of a changing climate differs around the world, as do the consequences of measures taken to arrest that change. Any international climate framework must take this variation into account, but northern-dominated research may miss important data from southern countries.

“Limited research about southern countries, and especially led by researchers from local institutions, limits the efficacy and legitimacy of assessments of climate-change vulnerabilities, impacts and risks,” Malgorzata Blicharska and Richard Smithers, the paper’s two lead authors, told The World Weekly.

Southern involvement in research is also important to ensure that proposals do not favour the North, where climate change has less of an impact.
“Southern countries may have limited ability, on the one hand, to pose evidence-based questions to northern countries and, on the other hand, to accept positions put forward by northern countries and justified by northern research that southern countries may perceive as biased,” the authors explained.

The paper outlines practical steps that should be taken to bridge this divide, though they note that socioeconomic disadvantages in the South mean this is no easy task.
Tim Cross
The World Weekly
05 January 2017 - last edited today