Monday, August 8, 2011

Call for Papers: Conference on climate change: Shifting science and changing policy

Liberty Institute, New Delhi and Mumbai University have joined hands to organize an international conference on climate change on October 14, 2011, Mumbai.


Unusual weather events are taken as evidence of irreversible and catastrophic climate change. Increasingly complex climate change policies and agreements are being agreed, with progressively more control over different aspects of our lives. Inexorably, we seem to slip towards the “Risk Society” of Ulrich Beck (1992), in which lives and politics are organized around the avoidance of risk. Yet, in environmental terms at least, the causal basis of environmental risk, and the implications of proposed solutions to risk, are far from clear.

The United Nation’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was formed in 1988, to provide an assessment of global climate change.  IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) released in 2007, linked the warming over the past 30 yrs, about 0.7 C, to anthropogenic green house gases, particularly CO2.

In 2009, the Heartland Institute, a non-profit organization in the USA, had published the “Climate Change Reconsidered”, a 800-page report put together by an independent panel of scientists, under the banner of Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).  This report is perhaps the most comprehensive response to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The NIPCC argues that the fatal flaw in the IPCC lies in its brief. It is "pre-programmed to produce reports to support the hypotheses of anthropogenic [man-made] warming and the control of greenhouse gases, as envisioned in the Global Climate Change Treaty."

Over the last few years, a number of significant errors have been found in the IPCC AR4. Also, a number of plausible alternative theories have emerged explaining possible changes in climate. It’s now over 20 years since the IPCC first made computer model projections which when compared to real world observations shows massive divergence.

In science, no theory can be seen to be credible unless it fits what we already know – which is why we can discount any theory that appears to work in isolation but does not conform to  previously established laws or empirical or observational evidence. All science depends on all other science, and the theory with the best explanatory power is the one that fits best with everything else.  It is in these circles that quasi-religious language abounds. Those who support the idea of human-induced climate change are said to "believe" in it, while those who challenge this position are regarded as "sceptics."

This is quite an odd phenomenon given that science is meant to be an investigation of the world by rational methods. If anything, the climate change debate should be fought over evaluating the data that is available, the models and techniques that are employed to analyse it, and the conclusions that are drawn. Of course, the current debate does not follow this formula. But we shouldn't forget that climate science, after all, is a "hard" science.

If the climate change debate is to be removed from the realm of "faith," we need to go back to hard science. There is room for the civic society to actively engage in discourse with experts, particularly when debates are pertinent to public policy. This is precisely what this international conference is all about. Academics, researchers, policy makers, government officials, media, concerned citizens and civil society activists are given the opportunity to listening and interacting with some of the best known climatologists in India and abroad.

Conference Themes
Theme 1: Science of climate change

Theme 2: Extreme weather in the Indian subcontinent

Theme 3: Changing sea level (regional and global)

Theme 4: Monsoon variability and its impact on agriculture

Theme 5: Climate of discourse and India’s policy options

Call for Papers

For young scholars in India (below 35 years) there is an opportunity to participate in this conference. Those interested, are invited to submit a paper, not exceeding 3000 words on any of the themes and related issues, by August 31 2011.

Who can Participate?

The conference is open to academics, researchers, policy makers, government officials, media, concerned citizens and civil society activists. There will be invited presentations as well as solicited presentations from scholars and researchers who may be interested in presenting a paper under any of the broad themes.

The speakers at the conference may agree that it is time to reconsider the science and economics of global warming. However, they may not all agree on the causes, extent, or consequences of climate change, or what should be done. The scientists and other experts are invited to share their research and engage in a reasoned and respectful debate with other.

Organizing committee: 
·          Mugdha Karnik, sociologist, professor at University of Mumbai
·   Ranjan R Kelkar, meteorologist, former director general of the Indian Meteorology  Department
·       Madhav Khandekar, meteorologist, former research scientist at Environment Canada, and  an expert reviewer of IPCC’s assessment report 2007
·          Barun Mitra, policy advocate, director of Liberty Institute, New Delhi

 International Advisory Board:
§  Nils-Axel Morner, former president of INQUA Commission on Global Sea Level Changes, Sweden
§  Nils-Finn Munch-Petersen, anthropologist, senior expert, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
       §     Willie Soon, astrophysicist, Harvard University, USA 
For more information:
Email: |
Liberty Institute
Julian L. Simon Centre
C-4/8, Sahyadri, Plot 5, Sector 12, Dwarka
New Delhi 110078. India
Tel: 011-28031309

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