That darn wealth distribution is affecting who has money for climate research. “The results show that the supply of climate change knowledge is biased toward richer countries.”. Can the begging be any more transparent? Oh, the pain!
Climate change research is globally skewed
The supply of climate change knowledge is biased towards richer countries – those that pollute the most and are least vulnerable to climate change – and skewed away from the poorer, fragile and more vulnerable regions of the world. That creates a global imbalance between the countries in need of knowledge and those that build it. This could have implications for the quality of the political decisions countries and regions make to prevent and adapt to climate change, warn the researchers behind the study from the University of Copenhagen.
“80 % of all the climate articles we examined were published by researchers from developed countries, although these countries only account for 18 % of the world’s population. That is of concern because the need for climate research is vital in developing countries. It could have political and societal consequences if there are regional shortages of climate scientists and research to support and provide contextually relevant advice for policy makers in developing countries”, says Professor Niels Strange from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen, which is supported by the Danish National Research Foundation.
Together with PhD student Maya Pasgaard from the Department of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Copenhagen, Niels Strange analysed over 15,000 scientific papers on climate research from 197 countries. The analysis clearly shows that the research is biased towards countries that are wealthier, better educated, more stable and less corrupt, emit the most carbon, and are less vulnerable to climate change.
As an example, the study shows that almost 30 % of the total number of publications concerns the United States of America, Canada and China, while India is the only highly vulnerable country in the top 10 list. However, Greenland and small island states like the Seychelles and the Maldives that are generally considered vulnerable, also find their way into the top 10 list if it is calculated per capita.
The content of climate studies is also skewed
The study shows that not only the authorship, but also the choice of topic in climate research, is geographically skewed:
Articles from Europe and North America are more often biased towards issues of climate change mitigation, such as emission reductions, compared with articles from the southern hemisphere. In contrast, climate research from Africa and South and Latin America deals more with issues of climate change adaptation and impacts such as droughts and diseases compared to Europe.
– The tendency is a geographical bias where climate knowledge is produced mainly in the northern hemisphere, while the most vulnerable countries are found in the southern hemisphere. The challenge for the scientific community is to improve cooperation and knowledge sharing across geographical and cultural barriers, but also between practitioners and academics. Ultimately, it will require financial support and political will, if we as a society are to address this imbalance in the fight against climate change, says Maya Pasgaard. The study was recently published online in the journal Global Environmental Change.
A quantitative analysis of the causes of the global climate change research distribution
M. Pasgaard, N. Strange
• Distribution of climate change knowledge and its causes is investigated.
• The supply of knowledge is biased toward the richer and less vulnerable countries.
• The production of knowledge is likewise biased away from poorer, vulnerable regions.
• Across regions, different knowledge domains within climate change dominate.
• The imbalanced distribution of knowledge affects adaptation and policymaking.
During the last decades of growing scientific, political and public attention to global climate change, it has become increasingly clear that the present and projected impacts from climate change, and the ability adapt to the these changes, are not evenly distributed across the globe. This paper investigates whether the need for knowledge on climate changes in the most vulnerable regions of the world is met by the supply of knowledge measured by scientific research publications from the last decade.
A quantitative analysis of more than 15,000 scientific publications from 197 countries investigates the distribution of climate change research and the potential causes of this distribution. More than 13 explanatory variables representing vulnerability, geographical, demographical, economical and institutional indicators are included in the analysis. The results show that the supply of climate change knowledge is biased toward richer countries, which are more stable and less corrupt, have higher school enrolment and expenditures on research and development, emit more carbon and are less vulnerable to climate change. Similarly, the production of knowledge, analyzed by author affiliations, is skewed away from the poorer, fragile and more vulnerable regions of the world.
A quantitative keywords analysis of all publications shows that different knowledge domains and research themes dominate across regions, reflecting the divergent global concerns in relation to climate change. In general, research on climate change in more developed countries tend to focus on mitigation aspects, while in developing countries issues of adaptation and human or social impacts (droughts and diseases) dominate. Based on these findings, this paper discusses the gap between the supply of and need for climate change knowledge, the potential causes and constraints behind the imbalanced distribution of knowledge, and its implications for adaptation and policymaking.
h/t to Matti H. Virtanen