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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Climate science, equity, and development : the role of international institutions in capacity building for climate change Ho Lem, Claudia


Climate change is a serious global problem that will have a disproportionate impact on developing countries. The ability of these countries to cope depends, at least in part, on the strength of their human capital and institutional capacity related to climate science. This thesis begins by examining the extent to which developing country scientists are participating in global climate science, and then evaluates international efforts to build the capacity of developing country scientists to address the climate change problem. A quantitative analysis of authorship data of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports (1990, 1995, 2001 and 2007) reveals that developing country scientists and institutions remain grossly under-represented – even after normalizing for a number of factors. The IPCC has recently acknowledged this ongoing problem, while the international community has resolved through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process to prioritize capacity building in developing countries. Extensive open source research and interviews with key informants at leading international organizations were used for qualitative purposes to identify, analyze, and evaluate such capacity building efforts. While several impressive initiatives were identified at the regional level, most capacity building activity was isolated and likely to be of limited effectiveness in advancing concerted global action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The overall conclusion is that the existing international approach to building scientific capacity in the developing world to address climate change is inadequate. Several significant obstacles to achieving sustainable, long- term scientific capacity to address climate change in developing countries are explored, including: institutional barriers, financial issues, the “brain drain” phenomenon, data access and quality, technology and research resource limitations, complexities with downscaling/up-scaling of climate modeling, the interdisciplinary nature of climate change, navigating the science-policy interface, and issues related to operating across culture, language, and gender. Finally, this thesis concludes that the largely ad hoc approach to individual capacity building activities should give way to a more comprehensive, integrated, strategic approach to more effectively build scientific capacity in the developing world to meet the climate change challenge.

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