Vacancy: Executive Director for an intergovernmental organization

An intergovernmental organization is looking for an Executive Director to provide intellectual leadership in the West Africa region for its integrated research and capacity building on social, economic and environmental themes in addressing sustainable development and climate change issues. The organization is a leading academic and trans-disciplinary research organization serving policy makers in West Africa with science-based advice on adaptation to climate change of land use and management.

Download the full job description (PDF)

For any questions and to apply please contact:

START International named 3rd Top Climate Think Tank for North America

The International Center for Climate Governance (ICCG) announced today the 2016 Climate Think Tank Rankings. START International was named 3rd Top Climate Think Tank for North America under standardized ranking, measuring the think tanks’ efficiency in per capita/researcher terms.

The ICCG ranking recognizes the best think tanks active in the field of climate economics and policy. It takes into account the performance of a think tank in conducting high quality research and its role in influencing climate-related and energy policy.

The Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) was named Top Climate Think Tank under standardized ranking, and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) was recognized Top Climate Think Tank under absolute ranking, measuring the think tanks’ performances regardless of their efficiency and hence size.

Read the ICCG’s press release

START’s Executive Director and Board Chair Meet Key Global and European Organizations


This gallery contains 4 photos.

Last week START’s Executive Director Cheikh Mbow and Board Chair Ghassem Asrar met with key organizations working on scientific research, climate and Earth observations. This gallery features photos with leaders and representatives from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the European Space Agency, …

The Intangibles that Matter: Non-Economic Loss and Damage

By Justin Charles G. See, PARR Fellow

“The floods swept away everything we had – even our dreams and our future.”

This was the testimony of Maricel, a resident of Barangay Tumana, Marikina City, at the end of our key informant interview. I was accompanied by my field interviewers in a visit to the communities living under the Tumana bridge, a flood-prone area just beside the Marikina River in the Philippines.

Our team went to Bgy. Tumana, Marikina City (a flood-prone community beside the Marikina River)

Our team wanted to know more about the experiences of loss and damage from the community members themselves. The questions we prepared were supposedly simple and straightforward – we wanted to know how many pesos they lose / spend every time their particular area gets flooded after a typhoon. But the responses they gave were much more complex. They incurred losses and damages that they cannot easily quantify in pesos. In climate change literature, these are called non-economic losses and damages, or NELD.

What were these losses that were difficult to quantify?

The residents we talked to reported about the significant impact of floods on their health. Most of them, especially the children, complained of respiratory illnesses and diarrhoea after every typhoon. Some of the adults got diagnosed with leptospirosis – a disease caused by bacteria usually carried by rats. These illnesses hampered the ability of the respondents to be productive in work or in school. Worse, a number were forced to stay home in order to recover.

A number of residents also talked about the impact of floods on their environment. They were energized when they recalled how they were able to swim or bathe in the river before. Some recounted how they bonded with their neighbours while washing clothes together. I was amazed at how their eyes lit up with the stories on how their grandparents were able to catch fish. “We used to harvest kangkong (water spinach) and labanos (radish) right here near the river. Then we would go and have picnic with family”, said Rolando. However, he claimed that his family couldn’t do any of these things anymore. The floods have made the river impossible to swim / bathe in / have picnic with family.

Key informant interviews with community members: we asked them about loss and damages after typhoon

The floods also have a substantial effect on their connections with other people. Sociologists call these links and shared understandings/ values as Social Capital. When asked about whom they go to for help in times of disasters, majority of the people we interviewed reported to have no one to go to. This was based on their experiences right after Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana). Very few people helped them out, and majority of those who helped were family or relatives. This resulted to a lack of trust towards other people.

The most heart-breaking story I heard that day was that of Maricel. Tears streamed down her face as she recounted how her mother died during Typhoon Ondoy, “As the water was quickly coming in, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to save my mother AND my five children. But things turned out differently…” Today, seven years after the typhoon, Maricel still finds it difficult to move on from the death of her mother. “My mother and I wanted to start a small restaurant just nearby. She was a good cook; I miss her adobo… Now that she’s gone, no one will cook my favourite adobo anymore. Our dream of starting our own restaurant too – it’s gone.” For Maricel, the loss of her mother meant more than an economic loss; it was a loss of a particular family arrangement, a loss of a special relationship, and a loss of a bright future for her family.

Health, Environment, Connections, and Human Lives – these encompass just some of the many non-economic losses and damages – intangible aspects of people’s lives that are difficult to measure yet they do matter. It is high time that we pay attention to NELD – as these are sometimes more important to people compared to the monetary losses.

START’s Former Board Chair, Professor Gordon McBean, wins the 62nd International Meteorological Organization Prize

The World Meteorogical Organization, the United Nations system’s authoritative voice on weather, climate and water, honored Professor Gordon McBean with the sixty-second International Meteorological Organization (IMO) Prize for his outstanding work in meteorology and climatology and his leadership as a scientific researcher.

Professor Gordon McBean co-chaired the START Scientific and Development Committee until 2009 and chaired the START Board of Directors from 2009 to 2015. He is Professor at the University of Western Ontario, London, Canada, and has been the the President of the International Council for Science (ICSU) since 2014.

The IMO Prize is the most important award in meteorology. Established in 1955, it is awarded every year to individuals in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of meteorology, hydrology, climatology or related fields.

Read the press release on WMO’s website


Government Planners learn how to Assess Communities’ Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change

During 15-17 February 2017, the Southeast Asia START Regional Center (SEA-START) has conducted the third and final training workshop on Assessing Community Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change.

Over the past 18 months, 15 government planners from Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam have learned key concepts of climate change adaptation planning, which aims at integrating climate change adaptation into community development plans.

The training program covers the following topics:

  • Assessing the current context of the sector and community
  • Assessing the current risk and vulnerability of the community to climate threats
  • Assessing the future risk of the community and the robustness of current risk management strategies and also the effectiveness of the current development/risk reduction plan in the future
  • Formulating plausible future concerns of the community
  • Formulating an adaptation strategy for each community
  • Identifying options for measuring and evaluating the strategies, and assessing enabling or critical success factors.

The training program was funded by the Core Environmental Program of the Asian Development Bank.

TEA-START and the Digital Belt and Road (DBAR) Initiative

An international research program, the Digital Belt and Road (DBAR) Initiative, was launched in Beijing in December 2016 to take advantage of Earth observation to address common issues, including climate change, food security, protection of world heritage sites, unbalanced economic and urban development, and disaster risks, in the Belt and Road Region. The Belt and Road includes 65 countries located along a land-based belt from China via Central Asia and Russia to Europe, and a maritime route through the Straight of Malacca to India, the Middle East and East Africa.

300 participants from over 40 Belt and Road countries and international organizations gathered to call for coordinated research and actions across borders to cope with common economic, developmental and environmental challenges. Participants included scientists, leaders of scientific organizations and government officials in charge of Science & Technology affairs.

DBAR contributes to sustainable development in the Belt and Road regions, by promoting:

  • earlier, deeper and broader understanding of the Belt and Road to address common challenges such as climate change, water resources, eco-environments, and food supply, in an integrated way;
  • efforts to build up a scientific community for exchanging and sharing Earth observation developments and solutions in the region, including capacity building;
  • efforts to strengthen and enhance Earth observation infrastructure; and
  • joint efforts to promote big data science methods.

DBAR established eight working groups, focused on: agriculture, big Earth data, water security, climate and environment, world heritage, disaster risks, coastal zone, and urban issues.
TEA-START (the Temperate East Asia Regional Centre for START) was actively involved in the development of the initiative. Prof. Gensuo Jia, TEA-START Director, serves as a member of the DBAR science committee and co-chair of the climate and environment working group.

Read more on the website of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.



Transdisciplinary workshops on the impacts of urbanization on the food-energy-water nexus

The Belmont Forum, START, Future Earth, and regional partners organized two workshops on conducting transdisciplinary (TD) research in the first quarter of 2017. The workshops focused on advancing principles of co-design and co-production in the natural, social, and engineering sciences that address complex sustainability challenges associated with the Belmont Challenge. The first workshop was held at the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University during 22-24 February 2017. The second workshop was held at Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex at the University of Colorado Boulder during 1-3 March 2017.

These workshops aimed to advance skill development in TD research, as well as increasing aptitude for developing proposals with strong TD elements, which is a cornerstone of all the Belmont Forum’s multi-year Collaborative Research Action (CRA), including the recently launched call on urbanization and the food-energy-water nexus. Learning activities within each workshop were organized around a regionally relevant case study on the food-energy-water nexus.

Transdisciplinary research workshop Boulder

Boulder workshop participants. Photo by: Daniel Strain

The workshops were three-day events with approximately 25 participants per workshop. Specific learning objectives included:

  • Understand TD research in the context of urbanization and the food-energy-water nexus
  • Identify opportunities and barriers related to TD research and application
  • Explore how to broaden impacts by adopting TD process design
  • Acquire usable skills and competences on TD research, including building a TD team, collaborative problem framing, TD settings and roles of researchers and practitioners, integrative approaches and methods, and evaluating TD process and scientific and societal impacts.

If you would like to be part of this growing community, please register on Future Earth’s Open Network and then join the Transdisciplinary Research and Application community. You can contact Sarah Schweizer ( for further details.