Most climate science is written by white men

Over the past five years, just 10 African scientists worked on the 100 most-cited climate research papers globally. Fewer than a quarter of the authors were women.

This is according to an analysis published last week by Carbon Brief. The UK-based website looked at research published in the five years between 2016 and 2020.

Of the 1 300 authors who worked on the 100 papers surveyed, almost 90% were from the Global North.

European authors made up nearly 41%, those from North America 33%, Asia 7%, and Africa 0.7%.

Some 39% of all the authors were from the US alone. Of the 10 African authors, eight were based in South Africa. None of the 100 papers had someone from Africa or South America as the lead author.

Gender representation is hardly any better. 

In the 100 papers, just 12 had a woman as the lead author. Women made up 22% of the 1 300 authors.

Representation in global academia is a long-standing problem. In a world in which the more visible you are — the more “famous” you are — the more funding you get, and this inevitably has a snowball effect.

Earlier this year, for example, Reuters published its “Hot List” of the thousand “most influential” climate scientists.

It based its metric not on the quality of their research or how much influence they had on governments and policy, but on their relative fame. 

Only five African scientists made it on to the list and only 122 scientists were women.

Although climate scientists might advise their own governments on policy, at a global level, the bias in research means decisions that affect the way the entire world works are based on science informed by a specific worldview.

That worldview tends to be male and Western.  

This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here.

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The Continent
The Continent is a free weekly newspaper published by the Adamela Trust in partnership with the Mail & Guardian.

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