SA launches climate research centre

23 August 2010

South Africa has launched the Africa Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science, which will provide regional decision-makers with reliable climate information, enabling them to balance developmental needs with responses to threats posed by environmental change.

In a statement this week, the Department of Science and Technology said that global warming and climate change were now pressing environmental security issues, and the debate on responses to environmental challenges demanded a sound and objective scientific basis for decision-making.

There was a need for reliable climate information so that governments could be better prepared to balance issues such as addressing poverty with responses to threats posed by floods, droughts, the changing demography of disease, and threats to biodiversity and arable land.

Investigating environmental challenges

The Africa Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science (Access) is a consortium of research institutions and agencies that have signed up to contribute to a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

These include the Universities of the Witwatersrand, Cape Town, Western Cape, Pretoria, Stellenbosch, KwaZulu-Natal and Rhodes, along with the SA Weather Service, SA Biodiversity Institute, Agricultural Research Council, Geosciences Research Council, SA Environmental Observation Network, and the hosts of the centre, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The secretariat will be set up at the Center for High Performance Computing at the CSIR Campus in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

Speaking at the launch event at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town this week, Deputy Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom said there was an increasing appreciation “of the catalytic and transformative role of science and technology.

“South African science and scientists are making valuable contributions to the scientific understanding of climate and environmental change on the African continent, and there are existing strong programmes and partnerships.”

Development through science

According to the department, Access aims to be an international centre of excellence that draws local and international students to studies of our planet and its management, and that helps to produce the decision-makers of the future.

Collaborations with other regional institutes, agencies and programmes in the continent are being developed, and the programme is initiating international collaboration with several international partners, including the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research.

Advancing scientific knowledge

Access has already implemented a research programme with several projects focused on a number of earth system issues; a services programme that will develop a series of products for use by service providers; and an educational programme that includes a bursary, winter school and national masters degree programme.

Hanekom said Access had been identified as a flagship initiative that would help advance scientific knowledge in South Africa and play a major role in growing a base of new emerging and established researchers – particularly black and women researchers.

SAinfo reporter

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