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Top climate scientist, Bob Scholes, has died

A giant in the field of climate science, a true leader and dedicated scientist. This is how the University of the Witwatersrand has described the distinguished professor, Bob Scholes, who died while hiking in Namibia with friends and colleagues on Wednesday.

Scholes was a National Research Foundation A-rated scientist and professor of systems ecology at Wits University, where he was the director of the Global Change Institute.

In a statement on Thursday night, Wits University said, “The Wits community is shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of such a giant in the field of climate science, not only in South Africa, but in the world. Professor Scholes was a true leader, a conscientious and dedicated scientist, and a teacher to all.”

Scholes was among the top 1% of environmental scientists worldwide, based on citation frequency, and published widely in the fields of savanna ecology, global change and earth observation.

He had led several high-profile studies, including the Assessment of Elephant Management, the Strategic Assessment of Shale Gas Development and the Global Land Degradation and Restoration Assessment.  

Scholes was one of the lead authors in the third, fourth and fifth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the present and future effects of climate change and how humanity can adapt to reduce climate threats.

He has been on the boards of the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, the South African National Parks and the South African National Space Agency.

Scholes was a fellow of The World Academy of Sciences, foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences, fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and a winner of the National Science and Technology Forum Lifetime Contribution to Science award. 

He served as a member of the steering committees of several global earth observation bodies. 

“The Wits community is saddened by the loss of professor Scholes, and extends its sincere condolences to Mary, his family, friends and colleagues, and those who knew him well, during this very difficult time.”

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Sheree Bega
Sheree Bega is an environment reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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