IPCC to offer climate science scholarships

COPENHAGEN The Nobel Peace Prize will pay dividends in the developing world by funding scholarships for climate-science studies. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which received the 2007 Nobel Prize, announced today that it is investing its winnings as seed money for these scholarships. They’d go to residents of nations expected to experience dramatic impacts of climate change, explains R.K. Pachauri, who heads the IPCC.

Currently, residents of these countries possess “hardly any expertise by which they can assess what the effects of climate change are and what they are projected to be. And therefore they don’t have a sound scientific basis for adapting to the effects of climate change.” By helping build a domestic scientific infrastructure within these regions of the world, that may change, he says.

The new IPCC trust fund has a nest egg of about $1 million. But the program, whose investments will be managed by the United Nations Foundation, hopes to tap institutional, governmental and private donors for additional funds, Pachauri says. “We hope we can build up an endowment of about $15 million, and as early as possible. We’d like to do that during the course of 2010,” Pachauri says. And potentially fund the first applicants next year as well.

Eventually, the hope is to support 25 to 30 students in studies at any level, at home or in universities within the industrial world. Aid will be targeted to studies that will focus on needs in a recipient’s home nation. That could be research on glacial melting rates by students living downstream of rivers fed from ice atop the Himalayas. Or students looking at how growing seasons have been changing and affecting crop yields. Or researchers looking at the spread of disease as insect carriers settle into regions formerly too cold for them to survive

“I applaud the decision by the IPCC to invest its Nobel Prize money to support climate scientists from developing countries,” said former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, now the United Nations special envoy on climate. “There could be no more fitting way of using the Nobel Prize money,” this physician and former World Health Organization leader said.

“It has my whole life been a central conviction that we must base our decisions on science and evidence,” she noted. That’s what the IPCC has been trying to help world leaders do, she said, which is why it’s new scholarship fund is where she will be investing her own prize winnings (500,000 Swedish crowns) garnered as the 2009 recipient of the Tällberg Foundation Leadership Award for Principled Pragmatism.

UN special envoy Gro Brundtland (left) and the IPCC's R.K. Pachauri (right) both devoted major price winnings as seed money for a new climate-science educational fund. Credit: J. Raloff
SHARING THEIR WEALTH UN special envoy Gro Brundtland (left) and the IPCC’s R.K. Pachauri (right) both devoted major price winnings as seed money for a new climate-science educational fund. J. Raloff

2007 NOBEL WINNERS IPCC chief, Pachauri (seated left at bottom) looks up at video of 2007 peace prize winners, Al Gore and himself (on behalf of IPCC). J. Raloff

Janet Raloff

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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