Egyptian climate scientists hope for ‘actions, not just words’ at COP27

World leaders, scientists and politicians gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the 27th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27) climate summit. Discussions so far have addressed the urgent need to decarbonise high-carbon industries, adaptation strategies for climate-resilient agriculture, and compensation for losses and damages.

As the conference enters its second week, Nature spoke to four climate scientists from the host country about their research, the challenges they face and their hopes for COP27.

‘No More Promises’

Hany Mostafa, Environment and climate change Research Institute, Egyptian National Water Research Centre, Cairo.

At my research institute, we work on projects to mitigate sea level rise in the Nile Delta and study their impact on farmers and people living in the surrounding area.

There is a lot of uncertainty in the field due to the diversity of climate models, making it difficult to translate our research into viable projects that can be implemented immediately. Using the computers we have access to, it can take three months to run a model, while high-performance computers can do it in an hour. The lack of supporting technologies causes delays in the production of our research.

My colleagues will be attending COP27 and giving a presentation on Water Day on 14 November. But we’re just doing research, we can’t change the policies. We want to hear about a deal to cut emissions by the end of COP27, and see deeds, not just words. We have heard enough promises in previous COP meetings.

Filling the gap in climate research

Mohamed Salem Nashwan, Arab Academy of Science, Technology and Shipping, Cairo.

In my research, I study regional climate change. Our models show that even under the optimistic scenario, where countries commit to limiting global warming to between 1.5°C and 2°C, the average temperature in Egypt will still increase by 1.3–1.5°C within the end of the century. We will experience increases in winter precipitation, extreme precipitation and longer dry spells.

There is a huge gap in climate research in the Middle East and North Africa. Most studies focus on Europe or the Mediterranean region. For example, you won’t find searches specific to Egypt; the work that exists is as a by-product of research on the Mediterranean region or the African continent.

In developed countries, climate change is considered a major issue and people are demonstrating about it in the streets. Here in Egypt, that’s not the main priority. We have several challenges, including economic and water issues, so environmental issues are not at the top of the list. But Egypt which hosted COP27 this year has finally brought out the climate crisis. While COP27 is primarily for policy makers, it will raise national awareness of climate issues and make our research more valuable. But I fear that by the end of COP27 things will go back to the way they were before.

‘Our research proposes solutions’

Lamiaa Mahmoud, University of Florida, Gainsville, and Mansoura University, Egypt.

We already know that climate change is affecting many aspects of our lives, such as agricultural products, food security and public health.

My research focuses on finding strategies to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and sea level rise in the Nile Valley. I work with plant breeding scientists at the University of Florida to find plant genotypes that can tolerate drought and a high level of salinity.

The biggest challenge for me is knowing that while something can be done to prevent economic and agricultural losses, nothing can be done instantly. Implementing climate study findings is a long and exhausting process, and funding and potential profits are key factors.

Even if our research offers solutions, I believe it is not up to scientists to translate the results of their studies into effective adaptation projects. So I hope that, with COP27, we can see immediate action to start implementing those projects before it’s too late.

Data problems

Aya Al-Sharqawy, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Recyclizer, Cairo.

I was a speaker during a session on climate change adaptation, loss and damage at the COP27 Youth and Future Generations Day (held on 10 November), and talked 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 have focused on how decision-making in the public and private sectors affects the implementation of sustainability and development goals and the fight against climate change in Egypt.

Lack of data or poor access to data has been my biggest challenge. Others include access to research papers in scientific journals: As a researcher in a developing country, paying fees to access more international journals is a pain.

I hope that the engagement of African and Egyptian youth in COP27 will raise social awareness of climate change and pressure decision-makers to include Egyptian and African initiatives in climate action.

This article is reproduced with permission and was first published November 14, 2022.

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