New Edition of Atlas of Climate Change Lauded by Many at COP 17

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When the much-praised guide to climate science The Atlas of Climate Change was first launched, the late Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Wangari Maathai, wrote in her foreword: “We have come a long way on climate change, from ignorance and denial to policy recommendations and global negotiations. The Atlas of Climate Change should inspire us all to action.”

The Atlas has now gone into its third edition, and it was much talked about at the climate change conference, or COP 17, in Durban.

The Atlas is seen as a comprehensive and accessible work that will increase the understanding of climate science amongst the general population.

It was jointly authored by Kirstin Dow, Thomas E. Downing and Bo Kiellén.

In Durban, Mr Downing, who is also chief executive officer of the Global Climate Adaptation Partnership, said the initial motivation behind the book was to provide a guide for undergraduate students. “Thus it had to be written in the language of mass appeal”, he said.

“We realised the importance of creating a public story. When we put it all together, we were shocked at how broad it was. There was a sense of capturing thousands of voices”, he added.
Youba Sokona of the African Climate Policy Centre sees it as a valuable handbook for policymakers. “The atlas not only covers the scientific aspect and impact of climate change on different sectors, but also covers economics and politics. Those involved in climate science policy and planning must have a copy of the book.”

Professor Daniel Gwany from Nigeria agreed. “Leaders are very keen to deal with climate change, but volumes of reports are impossible to get through. There was a request by African heads of state for a pocket reference book, and this book can be helpful.”

Al Hamdou Dorsouma of the African Development Bank (AfDB) was also enthusiastic. “As a product the Atlas is very useful. The AfDB is interested in supporting not only project investments, but also knowledge products. We are keen to be part of this process. All need to have access to this information.”

Marlowe Hood, an environmental journalist with Agence France Presse, said there was an information gap and an imbalance of Africa news coverage which the book may help change. “Africa as we keep hearing is the most vulnerable, will feel the impact of climate change first, and will be the hardest hit. Yet this is given little attention in the news. There are enormous data sets for the USA and the EU. A lot of informational data is missing for Africa.”

Francesca de Haspans, Europe director of the Green Belt Movement, hopes the Atlas will sway climate sceptics. “There are still climate sceptics, it sounds bizarre to us, but it’s true. It’s so important to educate, and that’s what this guide does. People need a digestible version of the science.”

A key message reiterated the need for climate science information to reach people on the ground, at grassroots level, for it to have beneficial impact. “In Africa where oral tradition holds more weight, this information can be transmitted by word”, said de Haspans.

Dorsouma conclusively said, “The Atlas can help carry out key messages of what needs to be done.”

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