Consider this city: climate models predict that its annual precipitation over the next fifty years will dramatically decrease, in some years disappearing altogether; the summers are likely to get hotter; the population is steadily growing and with it, electricity demand; as the population increases, the city is expanding outward and demand for transportation infrastructure, private automobiles, and vehicle fuels increasing. But where is this city? It could be Phoenix, Las Vegas or Los Angeles. It could also be Sydney, Mexico City or Madrid, or even Tehran, Damascas or Sana’a. Over the next 50 years, all these cities must confront the reality described above.
Addressing complex water, energy, population, and climate challenges such as that described above that will require scientists engaging across national borders and across the designations of traditional allies and long-time partner nations. It must be a truly global engagement that consists of scientists and engineers sharing knowledge, ideas, and resources so that the research and projects carried out in one country can be implemented, improved, and revised by researchers and governments worldwide. Cutting out scientists from non-traditionally allied countries (whether from oversight or intention) risks losing out on key ideas and knowledge—a risk we cannot afford.
In the past year, global scientific engagement has come to the forefront of U.S. foreign policy and a multitude of new engagement activities and programs have begun. However, the vast majority of these programs focus on building collaboration between scientists in countries with which the United States already has a robust relationship. While these engagements are necessary, they are insufficient in that they fail to produce long-term relationships and partnerships between U.S. scientists and their counterparts in countries with which the U.S. has a limited diplomatic or economic relationship.
To begin addressing this gap, FAS has created the International Science Partnership (ISP), a program that will build relationships between younger U.S. environmental scientists and engineers and their counterparts in a country with a limited U.S. formal or diplomatic relationship. The younger researchers will collectively develop a long-term project that addresses a key environmental need in both countries and that capitalizes upon the talents and backgrounds of each participant. (For more about the ISP, click here.)
On Saturday, Lindsey Marburger and I will travel to Sana’a, Yemen to meet with senior environmental researchers and government ministers in order to determine the feasibility of the ISP pilot project, with the goal of formally starting the project in early 2011. The environmental issue addressed by this pilot will be decided upon in cooperation with our Yemeni colleagues over the coming week. However, the initial pilot project is likely to focus on the energy-water nexus, an important issue as both countries confront regional water shortages, a growing population in arid regions, increased food and energy demand, and a rapidly aging energy production and distribution infrastructure.
Earth Systems Program Manager, Lindsey Marburger, and I will be blogging and sharing our findings throughout our time in Yemen as we visit the Water and Environment Centre (WEC) at the University of Sana’a, travel to a WEC field research site, meet with government ministers, and collaborate with university and NGO researchers. Find our blogs from Yemen on the newly-launched FAS Earth Systems blog.