As the world turns its attention to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, it is worth reflecting on the voices driving the debates forward and where they come from. Recently, Reuters published a list of the 1,000 most influential climate scientists based on their publication records and the engagement those publications generate. Only five Africans made the list, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief.
Principally responsible for this glaring disparity are the structural barriers preventing African and other researchers from the Global South from publishing in top academic journals. This lack of representation is indicative of broader inequities given the disproportionately severe effects of climate change on African countries relative to their total greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, this lack of representation is fundamentally a missed opportunity to draw on diverse perspectives around the world to identify innovative solutions to the existential challenge of climate change.
To help address this gap, Carnegie’s Africa Program is compiling a dataset of Africa-based research organizations working on climate-related issues (download full Excel file here). As of November 1, 2021, the dataset includes at least 117 Africa-based organizations working on issues of sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, sustainable urban development, and extractive industries (see figure 1). Many of the organizations—such as the Africa Sustainability Centre in Kenya, the Environmental-Economics Policy Research Unit based at the University of Capetown in South Africa, and the African Climate Change Research Centre in Nigeria—produce technical research across one or more of these thematic areas. Other organizations, such as the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team in Tanzania, work on the legal and regulatory dimensions of climate change and related policy areas.
These 117 African research organizations have been categorized into at least five broad thematic areas based on what they focus on, albeit with some overlap. More than half (sixty-four) have a demonstrated focus on agriculture and forestry, and also energy (fifty-two). The prioritization of agriculture and energy is to be expected given the high share of employment in agriculture and persistent energy poverty across the continent. Meanwhile, thirty-nine organizations work on extractive industries (such as oil, gas, and mining), while eighteen are engaged in work on urban development, and seven are focused on industry.
This dataset is a first cut at compiling a list of Africa-based entities producing technical and policy-related research on climate change. Given the worldwide challenge that global warming poses, and its geographically disparate effects, it is imperative to engage with experts in parts of the world highly vulnerable to the repercussions of climate change. A more inclusive cross-section of researchers across continents would help ensure that the direction and volume of climate research is truly representative of diverse perspectives and priorities, and such a move would also be more likely to yield feasible policy solutions.