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

Critical Thinking and Visions of the Future with ASSAR in West Africa

assar-wafricaThe second round of Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP) workshops were held near the end of 2016 in Ghana and Mali as part of the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project. These workshops built on a set of scenarios developed through a collaboration of ASSAR researchers and stakeholders from Upper West, Ghana and Koutiala, Mali. These scenarios facilitated participants to think critically about what the future may hold in terms of climate change, agriculture and food so that more legitimate actions can be designed and taken in the present.


In Ghana, the second workshop was held the 2nd and 3rd of November at the Nouyong Empire Hotel in the city of Wa in the Upper West Region. Dinesh Budhram from Reos Partners and Margot Steenbergen from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre facilitated the workshop. Participants were reacquainted with the scenario stories that had been developed over the preceding months through use of a set of scenarios videos prepared by the ASSAR communications team. The facilitators then led participants through at process of critical thinking and collective visioning that ultimately resulted in a set of prioritized themes or action areas. These included 1) disaster risk management, 2) improved market systems, 3) ecosystem management, 4) sustainable food and livelihoods empowerment, 5) climate smart water resources management, 6) and dissemination of the group’s shared vision for Upper West region, termed “Vision 2035”, to larger audiences and integrating it with national policy documents. Action groups were formed around these key action areas by those participants interested in and committed to shaping these ideas further, and remaining in touch with the ASSAR team to carry forward.


In Mali, the 2nd TSP workshop was held on the 13th and 14th of December in Koutiala, Mali. There, participants from the Sikasso region along with two national level stakeholders worked to develop a common vision: “A l’horizon 2035, faire des investissements dans l’agriculture et la conservation des ressources naturelles afin de garantir la sécurité alimentaire et améliorer le revenu des ménages dans le cercle de Koutiala” – translated as: “By 2035, strategic investments will target agriculture and natural resource conservation to ensure food security and wellbeing in Koutiala Region”. Based on this common vision, the socio-cultural context of the Region was analyzed to identify existing opportunities and barriers. Three groups of stakeholders were formed: public workers; civil society and farmers (farmer organisations). Each group was asked to list relevant strategies for achieving the vision, and for each of those, resources needed; problem to be addressed; actors to engage, and short and long term actions neede. From their lists, participants prioritized the following strategies, 1) management of rainwater on farms, 2) improvement of soil fertility, 3) promotion of improved seeds, 4) promotion of good nutritional practices, 5) secure land tenure, 6) forest resource management, and 7) production and post-harvest management. The Mali team is now working with the stakeholders on ways to put these strategies into action.

New Knowledge Briefs on Disaster Risk Reduction

okta pictureThe Pan-Asia Risk Reduction (PARR) Fellowship Program is pleased to announce the release of three knowledge briefs on urban disaster risk and vulnerability under global environmental change. The knowledge briefs are outputs from competitive grants on topics ranging from the creation and testing of a decision support system in the Philippines, an analysis of the linkage between urbanization and disaster in India, and validation of a framework for school-community collaboration for coastal community resilience. Click below to download the knowledge briefs.


Decision and Framework for Decision Support System for Highly Urbanized Megacities: Case study Metro Manila
Principal Investigator: Gemma T. Narisma


Exploring the Existing School-Community Network and Enabling Environment for Enhancing Community Resilience to Disaster
Principal Investigator: Rina Suryani Oktari


Flood Risk Vulnerability of Peri-urban Communities: The case of Surat
Principal Investigator: Aparna



parr logoThe PARR Fellowship Program offers unique research, training and educational opportunities to Asian researcher, practitioners, and policy makers to enhance their capabilities for advancing and applying knowledge on critical issues of global change and risk in the Asia-Pacific. The PARR Program is pioneered by an international alliance of science-focused, research, education and capacity building organizations that share a common goal and complementary track records for advancing resilience and sustainability in the Asia-Pacific.

We appreciate the financial and administrative support of the Oscar M. Lopez Center (Philippines), Kyoto University (Japan), Manila Observatory (Philippines), National Science & Technonlogy Center for Disaster Reduction (Taiwan), University of Los Baños, Thammasat University (Thailand), and START (USA). Finally, we recognize the financial support of Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, the United States Global Change Research Program, and the International Centre of Excellence for Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR-Taiwan).

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