Reuters' Hot List of climate scientists is geographically skewed: why this matters

image A section of Quarry Road informal settlement in Durban after severe flooding in April 2019 where research was undertaken by local scientists. Catherine Sutherland

The Reuters Hot List of “the world’s top climate scientists” is causing a buzz in the climate change community. Reuters ranked these 1,000 scientists based on three criteria: the number of papers published on climate change topics; citations, relative to other papers in the same field; and references by the non-peer reviewed press (for example on social media). The list does not claim that they are the “best” scientists in the world. But the ranking enhances position and reputation, influencing the production, reproduction and dissemination of knowledge.

What matters to us, as global South researchers and practitioners working in the field of climate change, is that the geography of this “global” list reveals a striking imbalance. While over three quarters of the global population live in Asia and Africa, over three quarters of the scientists on the list are located in Europe and North America. Only five are listed for Africa.

The list includes 130 of the 929 authors who are contributing to the current reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, arguably the most influential source for climate change policy. Again, the imbalance is stark: 377 (41%) of panel authors are citizens of developing countries (95 from Africa) and only 16 of these are on the Reuters list (only two from Africa).

A map showing uneven distribution of scientists. Proportion of Hot List authors, IPCC authors and global population by continent. Marlies Craig

Climate change science dominated by knowledge produced in the global North cannot address the particular challenges faced by those living in the global South. It also misses significant lessons emerging from the global South, for example from the intersection of climate change with poverty, inequality and informality.

Reuters maps the 1,000 scientists, making it clear that their location is important, yet it does not reflect on what this portrays. While the list is presented as a neutral, data-driven assessment of the top climate scientists, it is silent on the questions of power, authority and inequality this map raises. Where are the global South scientists, and why are they not featuring in this analysis of influence?

We believe that this inequality in influence is a result of unequal access to knowledge production essentials and processes. It also reflects the unequal valuing of climate change scientists’ research focus, which for scientists in the global South is often context-specific, to improve human outcomes and achieve localised return on investment in knowledge.

The list elevates research that contributes to well-established bodies of knowledge on the processes of climate change, and its global and local impacts, much of which has been produced in the global North. Research questions developed in and framed by the global North, for instance questions about environmental perceptions and values, often have limited application or meaning in the global South.

Science from global South matters

The science that is elevated by the list is not the only science that matters. Research from the global South tends to focus on solving challenges on the ground, drawing on multiple voices in local spaces and including practitioner knowledge, to co-produce solutions.

From our experience in Durban on South Africa’s east coast, local researchers, drawing on contextualised and decolonised global knowledge, influence the position of local policy makers and practitioners on climate change solutions. An example is research undertaken in informal settlements by university researchers with communities, which is shaping Durban’s climate change action.

To achieve a better global balance of important work on climate change, a list like the Reuters one could include a measure of the localised application and influence of research. What also matters is that the exclusion of ideas inhibits the production of knowledge for globally relevant innovation, transformation and action. Northern literature dominates global thinking and practice as shown through the spatiality of the list, but this science does not always provide globally relevant solutions, and often has limited application or meaning in the global South.

Addressing the global problem of climate change requires an engagement with the theories, knowledge and experiences from all parts of the world. Science from the global South may well provide innovative climate change solutions, but very little of this science makes it into the global conversation. The imbalance in influence, therefore, has implications for both global and local action.

Global South vulnerable to worst impacts of climate change

The global South is faced with the most severe consequences of climate change. Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and small island developing states are identified as key vulnerability hotpots. Sub-Saharan Africa already has a large share of the population living in multidimensional poverty. Across the continent there is a high dependence on agriculture which is predominantly rain-fed. Changing rainfall patterns and low irrigation rates are compromising these livelihoods. Rapidly growing coastal population centres are increasingly exposed and vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Global literature should support global fight against climate change

Much of the global literature is blind to and silent on the lived experiences of the majority of the globe. This includes extreme and multidimensional poverty, inequality, informality, gender inequity, cultural and language diversity, rapid urbanisation and weak governance, and how these intersect with climate change. An incomplete literature will miss important solutions in the global fight against climate change.

The most compelling story in the Hot List publication is the unequal global distribution of knowledge and expertise. But this is not acknowledged, debated or highlighted as a cause for grave concern. It may not be the responsibility of an international news agency like Reuters to solve this issue, but an agency that claims to provide “trusted intelligence” and “freedom from bias” should at least point it out.

About The Author

Nina Hunter, Post-Doctoral Researcher, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Related Books

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know

by Joseph Romm
0190866101The essential primer on what will be the defining issue of our time, Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know® is a clear-eyed overview of the science, conflicts, and implications of our warming planet. From Joseph Romm, Chief Science Advisor for National Geographic's Years of Living Dangerously series and one of Rolling Stone's "100 people who are changing America," Climate Change offers user-friendly, scientifically rigorous answers to the most difficult (and commonly politicized) questions surrounding what climatologist Lonnie Thompson has deemed "a clear and present danger to civilization.". Available On Amazon

Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future second edition Edition

by Jason Smerdon
0231172834This second edition of Climate Change is an accessible and comprehensive guide to the science behind global warming. Exquisitely illustrated, the text is geared toward students at a variety of levels. Edmond A. Mathez and Jason E. Smerdon provide a broad, informative introduction to the science that underlies our understanding of the climate system and the effects of human activity on the warming of our planet.Mathez and Smerdon describe the roles that the atmosphere and ocean play in our climate, introduce the concept of radiation balance, and explain climate changes that occurred in the past. They also detail the human activities that influence the climate, such as greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions and deforestation, as well as the effects of natural phenomena.  Available On Amazon

The Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course

by Blair Lee, Alina Bachmann
194747300XThe Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course uses text and eighteen hands-on activities to explain and teach the science of global warming and climate change, how humans are responsible, and what can be done to slow or stop the rate of global warming and climate change. This book is a complete, comprehensive guide to an essential environmental topic. Subjects covered in this book include: how molecules transfer energy from the sun to warm the atmosphere, greenhouse gases, the greenhouse effect, global warming, the Industrial Revolution, the combustion reaction, feedback loops, the relationship between weather and climate, climate change, carbon sinks, extinction, carbon footprint, recycling, and alternative energy. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you,, and at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.


This article originally appeared on The Conversation

These collapses might happen sooner than you’d think. Humans are already putting ecosystems under pressure in many different ways – what we refer to as stresses.

Hundreds of scientists protested government efforts to restrict educational access to Western science theories, including Darwin’s theory of evolution, in June 2023 in India.

A heat dome occurs when a persistent region of high pressure traps heat over an area. The heat dome can stretch over several states and linger for days to weeks, leaving the people, crops and...

When a hurricane hits land, the destruction can be visible for years or even decades. Less obvious, but also powerful, is the effect hurricanes have on the oceans.

Global heating has increased the likelihood of temperature extremes, but your exposure to them is not solely determined by the climate.

To comprehend El Niño, we must first acknowledge its counterpart, La Niña, and their intricate relationship as part of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) system.

The slow-down of the Southern Ocean circulation, a dramatic drop in the extent of sea ice and unprecedented heatwaves are all raising concerns that Antarctica may be approaching tipping points.

Climate change is a pressing global issue that presents significant challenges to our planet and the well-being of its inhabitants.

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration


can we cool the planet 7 22
Can We Cool The Planet?
by Robert Jennings,
Climate change has emerged as one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Over the past century, human activities…
The Devastating Impact of 3C Global Warming
by Robert Jennings,
Global warming is a pressing issue that poses severe threats to our planet and all its inhabitants. In recent years,…
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
by Anthony C. Didlake Jr
As Hurricane Sally headed for the northern Gulf Coast on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, forecasters warned of a…


global boiling is here 7 29
U.N. Warns: The Era of Global Boiling Has Arrived
by Robert Jennings,
The world faces an unprecedented climate crisis as temperatures soar and heat records are shattered across the globe.
amoc map 7 26
The Unseen Tipping Point: Understanding the Potential Impact of an AMOC Shutdown
by Robert Jennings,
The Unseen Tipping Point: Understanding the Potential Impact of an AMOC Shutdown Have you ever heard of the Atlantic…
can we cool the planet 7 22
Can We Cool The Planet?
by Robert Jennings,
Climate change has emerged as one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Over the past century, human activities…
global hungry 7 22
The Rising Tide of Global Hunger: Pandemic, Climate & Conflict Fuel Food Insecurity
by Robert Jennings,
In recent years, the world has witnessed a distressing surge in global hunger, painting a bleak picture of food…
keeping cool 7 20
Beat the Heat: Your Guide to Staying Safe in Extreme Temperatures
by Robert Jennings,
As the temperatures rise during the summer months, it's important to be aware of the risks associated with extreme heat.
The Devastating Impact of 3C Global Warming
by Robert Jennings,
Global warming is a pressing issue that poses severe threats to our planet and all its inhabitants. In recent years,…
how hot is too hot 7 19
How Hot is Too Hot? The Risks of Extreme Heat on the Human Body
by W. Larry Kenney, Penn State et al
The answer goes beyond the temperature you see on the thermometer. It’s also about humidity. Our research is designed…
european heatwave 7 18
European Heatwave: What’s Causing It And Is Climate Change To Blame?
by Emma Hill and Ben Vivian, Coventry University
Europe is currently in the midst of a heatwave. Italy, in particular, is expected to face blistering heat, with…

Climate change is now climate crisis and a climate sceptic now a climate denier, according to the recently updated style guide of The Guardian news organisation.

One of the most expensive Wall Street shareholder battles on record could signal a big shift in how hedge funds and other investors view sustainability.

It's time to stop subsidizing them and start facing the climate crisis, says a BailoutWatch analyst.

At the start of February 2021, a major snowstorm hit the northeast United States, with some areas receiving well over two feet of snow. Just a few weeks earlier, Spain experienced a historic and...

Take today’s heat, apply mathematical logic and consider a murderously hot future, 56°C by 2100, for hundreds of millions.

This documentary "Weathering the Future" explores the growing impact of extreme weather events on communities across the United States.

New Attitudes - New Possibilities | | | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.