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Closing the Gap Between Science and Policy-Making for Sustainable Development
16/ 09/ 2009

Closing the Gap Between Science and Policy-Making for Sustainable DevelopmentAward-Winning Environmental Modeling and Environmental Systems Expert-Joseph Alcamo-Appointed as UNEP Chief Scientist

Nairobi, 16 September 2009 - Professor Joseph Alcamo, whose work and research has contributed greatly to some of the landmark global assessments of the past 15 years, has been appointed UNEP's Chief Scientist.

The appointment, the first ever for the organization, comes in response to the call to strengthen the scientific work of UNEP made by its Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum.

Professor Alcamo, whose working life has been with universities, governments and institutions in both the developed and the developing world, has been a key contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since the mid 1990s.

He also played an important role in the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment-an evaluation of trends alongside economic valuations of natural assets- and many of the sobering scenarios outlined in UNEP's Global Environment Outlook-4 to name but a few of his achievements.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "UNEP's global mandate is to provide leadership on the environmental challenges of our time and that needs the strongest scientific foundation possible in order to inform and assist governments in making informed and transformational choices".

"Professor Alcamo is among a generation of scientists whose modeling and scenarios work has contributed to making science an instrument for objective and collective, multi-lateral decision making," he said.

"His appointment also signals UNEP's commitment to building bridges and closing the gaps that still remain between the world of science and the world of sustainable development policy-making," said Mr Steiner.

Professor Alcamo has worked for 14 years with the IPCC-the Nobel Peace Prize-winning panel of some 2,000 climate scientists and experts which was jointly established by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization-and has been a lead author of many of its reports, including the 2007 4th Assessment and in particular on the impacts of climate change.

Professor Alcamo, a US citizen, has lived in nine countries and worked in institutions and universities including the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, India, Stellenbosch University, South Africa and Stanford University, California.

His most recent position was Professor of Environmental Systems Science and Engineering and Director of the Center for Environmental Systems Research at the University of Kassel, Germany.

In Kassel he pioneered studies of the global water system and impacts of climate change on the terrestrial environment, and founded the first graduate school in Germany on environmental science and research.

Among Professor Alcamo's many awards is the Max Planck Research Prize for achievements in global change research.

Commenting on his goals as Chief Scientist, Prof. Alcamo said "I believe that there remains a big gap between the world of science and the world of policy and decision making. This is not too surprising since scientists and decision makers speak different "languages" and have different priorities. But it is also not a situation we can live with since we need urgently need more scientific input to better understand and address problems like water scarcity, chemical contamination, declining ecosystem services and climate change impacts. I hope I can help shrink this gap by strengthening the science base at UNEP and bringing more UNEP-type challenges to the scientific community."

For More information Please Contact: Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/Head of Media, on Tel: +254 733 632755 or e-mail:

Further Resources
UNEP: Science Initiative
UNEP: Resources for Scientists