World leaders, scientists and policymakers are gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the 27th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27) climate summit. So far, the discussions have addressed the urgent need to decarbonize high-emitting industries, adaptation strategies for climate-resilient agriculture and loss and damage compensation.
As the conference enters its second week, Nature spoke to four climate scientists from the host country about their research, the challenges they encounter and their hopes for COP27.
Hany Mostafa, Environment and Climate Changes Research Institute, Egyptian National Water Research Centre, Cairo.
At my research institute, we work on projects to mitigate the sea-level rise in the Nile Delta, and study its impact on farmers and people living in the surrounding area.
There is a lot of uncertainty in the field because of the diversity of climate models, and this makes it difficult to transform our research into feasible projects that can be put into immediate action. Using the computers we have access to, it can take three months to run one model, whereas high-performance computers can do it in one hour. The lack of supporting technologies causes delays in producing our research.
My colleagues are attending COP27 and delivering a presentation on the Water Day, 14 November. But we’re only doing research—we cannot change policies. We wish to hear about an agreement to reduce emissions by the end of COP27, and to see actions not just words. We have heard enough promises in previous COP meetings.
Filling the gaps in climate research
Mohamed Salem Nashwan, Arab Academy for Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport, Cairo.
In my research, I study regional climate change. Our models show that even in the optimistic scenario, in which countries commit to limiting global warming to between 1.5 °C and 2 °C, the mean temperature in Egypt will still increase by 1.3–1.5 °C by the end of the century. We will experience increases in winter rainfall, extreme precipitation and longer dry spells.
There is a huge gap in climate research in the Middle East and North Africa. Most of the studies focus on Europe, or the Mediterranean region. You wouldn’t find research specifically on Egypt, for example; the work that exists is like a by-product of research on the Mediterranean region or the African continent.
In developed countries, climate change is considered a top issue and people demonstrate about it in the streets. Here in Egypt, it’s not the main priority. We have several challenges, including economic and water-related problems, so environmental issues are not on top of the list. But Egypt hosting COP27 this year has made the climate crisis finally come to the surface. Although COP27 is mainly for policymakers, it will increase the national awareness of climate issues and will make our research more valuable. But I am afraid that by the end of COP27, things will return to the way they were before.
‘Our research proposes solutions’
Lamiaa Mahmoud, University of Florida, Gainsville, and Mansoura University, Egypt.
We are already aware that climate change is affecting many aspects of our lives, such as agricultural commodities, food security and public health.
My research focuses on finding strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and sea-level rise in the Nile Valley. I collaborate with plant-breeding scientists at the University of Florida to find plant genotypes that can tolerate droughts and a high level of salinity.
The biggest challenge for me is knowing that although something can be done to prevent economic and agricultural losses, nothing can be done instantly. Applying the outcomes of climate studies is a long and exhausting process, and funding and potential profits are key factors.
Even though our research proposes solutions, I feel that it is not up to the scientists to translate the output of their studies into effective adaptation projects. So I hope that, with COP27, we can see immediate action to initiate the implementation of such projects before it’s too late.
Aya Al-Sharqawy, chief executive and co-founder of Recyclizer, Cairo.
I was a speaker during a session on climate-change adaptation, loss and damage at COP27’s Youth and Future Generations Day (held on 10 November), and did a talk about my start-up in another session.
The company I co-founded, Recyclizer, collects plastic waste from the streets and recycles it into a mulch film that can be used to cover soil, protecting it from damage and reducing the amount of water needed for irrigation.
In my academic research, I focused on how the decision-making process in the public and private sectors affects the implementation of sustainability and development goals and tackling climate change in Egypt.
Lack of data or poor access to data has been my greatest challenge. Others include access to research papers in science journals—as a researcher in a developing country, paying fees to access multiple international journals is an issue.
I am hoping that the engagement of African and Egyptian youth in COP27 is going to increase social awareness of climate change, and put pressure on decision makers to include Egyptian and African initiatives in climate action.
This article is reproduced with permission and was first published on November 14 2022.