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Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change in Multiple Regions and Sectors: Filling Gaps in Scientific Knowledge and Capacity. Peter McGrath Acting programme officer, TWAS, Trieste, Italy [email protected] International Conference:

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peter mcgrath acting programme officer twas trieste italy mcgrath@twas org

Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change in Multiple Regions and Sectors:Filling Gaps in Scientific Knowledge and Capacity

Peter McGrathActing programme officer, TWAS, Trieste, Italy

[email protected]

International Conference:

Global Philanthropists - Partners for a knowledge-based response to climate change

Portoroz, Slovenia, 1-3 June 2008

twas who and what we are
TWAS: Who and what we are
  • Founded 1983 in Trieste, Italy, by Abdus Salam and 40 other eminent scientists from the South (incl. 10 Nobel Laureates).
  • Inaugurated 1985 by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Javier Perez de Cuellar.
  • Located at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy.
  • Administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
twas who and what we are1
TWAS: Who and what we are
  • 880 Members in 90 countries
  • 746 “Fellows” in 73 countries in the South.
  • 134 “Associate Fellows” in 17 countries in the North.
  • 15 Nobel Laureates.

“The voice of science for the South”

twas objectives
TWAS: Objectives
  • Recognize, support and promote excellence in scientific research in the South.
  • Respond to the needs of scientists working under unfavourable conditions.
  • Support South-South scientific exchange and collaboration.
  • Promote South-North cooperation between individuals and centres of excellence.
  • Promote dissemination of scientific information and sharing of innovative experiences.

“Building scientific capacity in developing countries”

climate change the challenge
Climate change: The challenge

"At the start of the 20th century, there were one billion people on the planet. Now there are more than six billion people. By 2054 – in just 43 years\' time – we will reach nine billion people.

“The challenge is to meet the requirements of all those nine billion people. Can we make the cultural changes that will be necessary?

“These additional three billion people will put added pressure on our natural resources, such as fresh water and biodiversity, especially in the light of climate change – the effects of which will be felt most severely in Africa, the region that has the least capacity to deal with it.”

David King, former science advisor to the UK government

G8-UNESCO World Forum on

Education, Research and Innovation: New Partnership for Sustainable Development10-12 May 2007, Trieste, Italy

climate change the challenge1
Climate change: The challenge

Filling Gaps in Scientific Knowledge and Capacity

The Third Assessment Report of the IPCC (2001) highlighted that developing countries are highly vulnerable to climate change.

“Yet gaps exist in understanding the nature of this vulnerability and opportunities for adaptation. Furthermore, in many of these countries, there is a need for improved scientific and technical capacity to conduct the integrated, multi-disciplinary regional investigations necessary to fill these gaps.”

Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change (AIACC)

“We need science to fill these gaps – and we need scientific capacity in developing countries to ensure that the science carried out is relevant to the needs of these countries.”

climate change the challenge2
Climate change: The challenge

Africa is most vulnerable to climate change because of its fragile ecosystems, and weak resilience and adaptation capacity.

WHO estimated mortality (per million people) attributable to climate change by 2000.

Source: Nature (2005), vol. 438, pages 310-317.

model project aiacc
Model project: AIACC
  • Assessments of Impacts and Adaptations to Climate Change (AIACC)
  • Developed in collaboration with the UNEP/WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC);
  • funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF);
  • implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • executed jointly by START and TWAS;
  • collateral funding provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the World Bank; and
  • substantial in-kind support was provided by participating institutions in developing countries.

model project aiacc1
Model project: AIACC


To advance the scientific understanding of climate change vulnerabilities and adaptation options in developing countries.


By funding collaborative research, training and technical support, AIACC has enhanced the scientific capacity of developing countries to assess climate change vulnerabilities and adaptations, and has generated and communicated information useful for adaptation planning and action.

climate change filling the gaps where are the gaps
Climate change: Filling the gaps Where are the gaps?
  • Climate models – Need for regional models of relevance to developing countries.
  • Health – Unknown effects on infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue and diarrhoea.
  • Agriculture – Unknown effects on traditional crops and varieties. Rice cultivation in Asia thought to be under threat.
  • Fisheries – Changes to ocean currents will affect fisheries. Temperature changes will affect food-chains.
  • Water – There will be widespread – but largely, as yet, unpredictable – effects on the hydrological cycle, especially in arid and semi-arid areas where people already lack sufficient safe drinking water and water for irrigating crops.
  • Other sectors – Rising sea-level, disaster mitigation …
climate change filling the gaps
Climate change: Filling the gaps

“A partnership between climatologists and crop scientists will be valuable.”

“The estimated window for implementing mitigation and adaptation programmes has shrunk from 30-40 years to 15 years.”

Martin Parry, IPCC co-chair, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, UK

“There is a need to go beyond coarse global models and develop specific river basin and farm-scale models of how climate change will affect river water availability and lake levels.”

Colin Chartes, International Water Management Institute, Sri Lanka

scientific response trieste
Scientific response: Trieste
  • International scientific organizations based in Trieste:
  • Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP)
  • International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB)
  • International Centre for Science and High Technology (ICS-UNIDO)
  • TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world.
  • International scientific organizations based in Trieste and associated with TWAS:
  • InterAcademy Panel (IAP)
  • InterAcademy Medical Panel (IAMP)
  • Third World Organization for Women in Science (TWOWS).
trieste ictp physics of weather and climate section
Trieste: ICTPPhysics of Weather and Climate Section
  • established at ICTP in 1998.
  • Objectives:
  • to carry out research and educational activities in the physics of the atmosphere, ocean, and land surface processes; and
  • to make climate models available and provide the know-how of their use to the scientific community in developing countries.
  • Research activities can be broadly divided into two main areas:
  • regional climate change, with emphasis on anthropogenic effects and future climate scenarios; and
  • natural climate variability.

Each year, the group organizes a number of educational activities, such as workshops and conferences on specific topics related to weather and climate research.

The group also maintains strong contacts with international programmes and leading laboratories worldwide to maintain a state-of-the-art level of research and to enhance communication between scientists in developing and developed countries.

trieste twas and icgeb joint programme on abiotic stress in plants
Trieste: TWAS and ICGEBJoint Programme on Abiotic Stress in Plants
  • Overview:
  • Initiated in 2006;
  • 5 research networks funded;
  • One member of each network must be from an ICGEB member state, and one must be from a science- and technology-lagging country (S&TLC);
  • US$10,000 a year, provided to each research network for three years, most of which must be spent supporting research in and training young scientists from the S&TLC partner;
  • Currently funded entirely by TWAS and ICGEB.
trieste twas and icgeb joint programme on abiotic stress in plants1
Trieste: TWAS and ICGEBJoint Programme on Abiotic Stress in Plants

Research programmes being supported:

  • Tolerance strategies of Quinoa plants under salt stress: Chile with collaborators from Argentina, Mali and Italy;
  • Use of bacterial H+ pyrophosphatases for the development of salt-tolerant plants: Russia with a collaborator from Uzbekistan;
  • The development of maize and other crops tolerant to abiotic stresses: South Africa with collaborators from Kenya and Zimbabwe;
  • Over-expression of genes encoding ion transport proteins as a strategy to improve salt- and drought-tolerance in wheat: Tunisia with collaborators from Ghana and Syria;
  • The identification of key genes involved in salt and osmotic stress tolerance in model plants: Uruguay with collaborators from Argentina, Nicaragua and Hungary.
trieste twas twnso conservation and sustainable use of dryland biodiversity
Trieste: TWAS, TWNSOConservation and Sustainable Use of Dryland Biodiversity


  • Three-year project: 2000-2003;
  • Aimed at identifying and disseminating ‘Best Practices’ case studies;
  • Aimed at linking and networking research institutes from the world’s arid and semi-arid regions;
  • Involved 3 regional workshops and 2 international conferences;
  • 70 case studies published aimed at different levels of interest/understanding (scientists; policy-makers and NGOs; general public);
  • Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Trieste: TWNSO => COSTIS

  • Third World Network of Science Organizations (TWNSO), founded in 1988, Trieste, Italy.
  • January 2007: TWNSO to become the Consortium on Science, Technology and Innovation for the South (COSTIS).
  • Decision announced by Foreign Ministers of the Group of 77 at meeting held at UN headquarters in New York City on 22 September 2006.

COSTIS Membership

  • Ministers responsible for S&T;
  • National Research Councils;
  • National Science Foundations;
  • National Science Academies;
  • Science-based private sector institutions (observer status).

“TWNSO/COSTIS regarded as the ‘political wing’ of TWAS – enabling the Academy to promote the need for science at the highest government levels.”

trieste twas regional offices


Chinese Academy of Sciences

AlexandriaBibliotheca Alexandrina


J.N. Centre for AdvancedScientific Research


African Academy of Sciences

Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian Academy of Sciences

Trieste: TWAS Regional Offices
  • TWAS Regional Office for Sub-Saharan Africa (TWAS-ROSSA):
  • Hosted by the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), which also hosts the Network of African Academies of Science (NASAC).
  • AAS is currently implementing a project with START (TWAS’s AIACC partner) to offer fellowships to young scientists from sub-Saharan Africa in the area of climate change science.
trieste twas and networks of academies of science
Trieste: TWAS and Networks of Academies of Science


  • Joint statement by academies of G8 countries and NASAC toG8 summit in Scotlandin June 2005.
  • NASAC statement to AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2007.
  • NASAC statement to G8 summit in Germany in June 2007.
climate change filling the gaps1
Climate change: Filling the gaps

There are gaps evident in these highlighted projects:

  • TWAS-ICGEB: Relatively low level of funding for a project that could be expanded greatly.
  • TWNSO drylands biodiversity: Funding has ceased – but needs continue for the second phase, on sustainable land management.
climate change filling the gaps2
Climate change: Filling the gaps

Tearfund Climate Change Briefing Paper 1 (2006)

Institute of Development Studies

Overcoming the Barriers: Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation in Developing Countries

Major recommendations:

  • Funding for adaptation should be increased well beyond that currently available via the GEF and other adaptation-specific bilateral aid.
  • Donors should support research and monitoring and evaluation of the mainstreaming process, to develop understanding of what contributes to effective enabling environments.
climate change filling the gaps3
Climate change: Filling the gaps
  • Conclusion:
  • Many challenges remain – indeed, it is likely that many challenges are only now emerging.
  • Developing countries are most at risk – and developing countries have less scientific expertise available to be able to define that risk and to provide advice on adaptation and mitigation responses.
  • Developing countries’ scientific capacity must be increased – across the board, from basic chemistry and theoretical physics, to the agricultural sciences and integrated water management etc…
  • TWAS is already addressing these problems through its current programmes: research grants, fellowships programmes, support for scientific meetings etc...

“But much more still needs to be done.”

thank you for your attention

Thank you for your attention

Peter McGrathTWAS Acting programme officer

[email protected]