START GOFC-GOLD Summit in Tbilisi Looks at Strengthening Regional Information and Knowledge Networks

Leaders of Global Observation of Forest Cover and Land Dynamics (GOFC GOLD) regional networks convened in Tbilisi, Georgia, during September 13-16 for the 2017 GOFC-GOLD Regional Network Summit. The Summit assessed past performance of regional networks and their future direction – it also provided an opportunity for cross-network learning and knowledge sharing. It was also attended by GOFC-GOLD Executive Committee members and other partners.

The meeting brought together 45 participants from 20 countries from Africa, Asia, South America, Eastern and Southern Europe and the United States. Mr Nodar Khatishvili, Deputy Director of the Scientific-Research Center of Agriculture of Georgia, opened the meeting. The Georgean Ministries of Environment, Agriculture and the National Public Registry Agency were also represented. The Summit included presentations by regional network members, facilitated discussions as well as field trips.

The Summit was preceded by a two-day kickoff meeting launching the Caucuses Regional Network (CaucRiN).

GOFC-GOLD Regional Networks are a key part of the GOFC GOLD capacity building function. The Networks enable data providers, scientists and operational users to articulate information requirements and improve their access to and use of Earth observations. They represent a critical link between national agencies, user groups and the global user/producer community, and NASA Land-Cover and Land-Use Change (LCLUC) scientists.

Echoes in Space – Introduction to Radar Remote Sensing Online Course

ESA, the European Space Agency, is launching a free online course on Radar Remote Sensing.

“Echoes from space” will take you on a journey through the exciting world of Radar Remote Sensing. Learn the basics that will help you to understand where this technology is coming from, how the images are acquired and which manifold applications already use Radar Remote Sensing to help protect our planet.

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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


START and the Belmont Forum establish formal collaboration

START International has become a formal partner of the Belmont Forum. The Belmont Forum is a group of the world’s major and emerging funders of global environmental change research. It aims at mobilizing international resources to accelerate delivery of environmental research.

START will work with the Belmont Forum to advance global environmental change research, bringing to the partnership its longstanding expertise in science capacity building and its established networks in Africa and Asia.

“We are looking forward to engaging with the Belmont Forum and contributing with our expertise and leadership to our mutual priorities on global environmental change, especially in developing countries,” said Cheikh Mbow, START International’s Executive Director.

START has a strong track record of collaboration with many Belmont Forum member countries and partners, including the National Science Foundation, Future Earth, the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC).

Read the post by Erika Key, Executive Director of the Belmont Forum Secretariat