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[HYDERABAD] Climate scientists from developing and developed countries should collaborate to establish a research centre to make more accurate and reliable climate change predictions at regional levels, a leading climate scientist has suggested.

The centre should be modelled on similar international projects such as the European Organisation of Nuclear Research's CERN, in Geneva, said Jagadish Shukla, a professor at George Mason University, United States, and president of the Institute of Global Environment and Society.

It would require 200–500 climate scientists from around the world, he said at the meeting of TWAS, The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, last week (22 October). Scientists have previously called for a global climate database, but this call is for a research facility that would produce more accurate data aimed at understanding climate change effects at local and regional levels.

Reliable prediction of regional climates needs realistic simulation of daily, seasonal and decadal changes in temperatures and rainfall patterns. Current models, for example those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are unable to predict some of the regional variations — such as the monsoon rains over the Indian sub-continent — because there are gaps in knowledge that limit capacity of these models, he said.

"A revolution in climate prediction is possible and necessary", he added. But this needs an improved understanding and data assimilation of the coupled land–ocean–atmosphere systems, and other factors that drive global warming.

Opha Pauline Dube, lecturer at the University of Botswana and vice-chair of the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme said there is a lot of hard scientific data on climate change at a global level, but not enough local research or data on how climate change will impact specific regions or local communities.

"The IPCC does not specifically address research from developing countries, much less least-developed countries" from where peer-reviewed research is often not available, Dube pointed out.

So while IPCC provides information at the global level, countries are expected to prepare national adaptation plans in the absence of regional and local information, pointed out Adel El-Beltagy, chair of the International Dryland Development Commission, Egypt.

Although Mohammad Hassan, president of TWAS, welcomed the idea, he told SciDev.Net that setting up such a big centre could pose many challenges, especially on the funding front.

But Ibidapo Obe, professor at the University of Lagos and president of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences said that building such a research centre should not be the priority for scientists dealing with climate change.

"Our priority is to prepare our people to meet the challenges to be faced by climate change."

Catch up with SciDev.Net's daily blog from the annual meeting of TWAS, The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, in Hyderabad, India (19–22 October)