Department of Geography

The Age of Uncertainty: Climate change, water systems and social development

University of Bergen, 16-18 February 2011 This conference will discuss the relationship between water, social development, and environment, with a special focus on how climate changes impact water systems and thus societies’ development.

Main content

We are living in an age where the uncertainty about climate change has become an overriding political, ideological and moral issue. This uncertainty is primarily an uncertainty about the future of water. People are asking: Are we living in a century that will see more floods, smelting glaciers and heavier rainfall? Or will we see increasing drought, less rainfall and shrinking rivers and lakes? And where will there be less water and where will there more? Different water-worlds or waterscapes will change in accordance to variations in rainfall, evaporation, and human interference in natural water systems. Societies and civilisations disappeared in the past partly because they were not able to adapt to new environmental circumstances and ecological variables. On the other hand, changes in the waterscapes have also given premises for new societal developments.

What we do know is that this uncertainty about the future of water will make the control of water an ever more important source of power and that the way water issues are dealt with will change the geopolitical map of the world and the lives of billions of people.

Analyses and political predictions of climate change and the societal consequences of them are often presented as universal and general, but these processes must also be analysed as parts of specific geographical and historical contexts. Climate change and changes in precipitation patterns will have context-dependent and specific regional causes and consequences. Some areas may be better off or not seriously affected whereas, in other areas, the very same changes may have dramatic and devastating impacts.

This conference will approach these pressing issues within historical and geographical perspectives. It will also discuss theoretical and methodological challenges involved in studies of climate change, water systems and social development.

The Conference is open to all, and there is no conference fee!

The six volume book series A History of Water will be launched at the conference.  

Conference web pages

The program:

Wednesday February 16:
Venue: Egget, Studentsenteret, University of Bergen

Water systems, development and geopolitics

  • 10.00-10.15: Opening addresses.
    Sigmund Grønmo, Rektor, University of Bergen.
  • 10.15-11.00: Water systems, climate and economic development.
    Terje Tvedt
  • 11.00-11.45: From land to water: the shifting balance of explanatory variables in geopolitics.
    Graham Chapman
  • 11.45-12.00: Questions and discussions
  • 12.00-12.15: Coffee Break
  • 12.15-12.45: The Ideas of Water in History: In Rituals and Religions
    Terje Østigård
  • 12-45-13.15: Lunch Break
  • 13.15-13.30: Questions and discussion
  • 13.30-14.30: Book launch: A History of Water, Series I and II IB Tauris. Editor David Stonestreet: Presentation of the Book  Series
    Former NRK-journalist Petter Nome in conversation with Series Editor Terje Tvedt about the Series
  • 14.30- 15.15: Rivers in History and Society: From Sumer to the Industrial Revolution
    Richard Coopey
  • 15.15-15.30: Questions and discussion
  • 15.30-16.00: Water, Modernity and Leisure
    Karen V. Syse
  • 16.00-1630: Questions and discussion.
  • 19.00: Conference Dinner


Thursday February 17:
Venue: Egget, Studentsenteret, University of Bergen

Climate change, water systems and social development

  • 0900-0915: Opening address: The research challenges as seen from Norwegian Research Council
     Spesialrådgiver Camilla Schreiner, Norwegian Research Council
  • 0915-0945: Long-term trends in global climate and water with a focus on glaciers
    Atle Nesje
  • 0945-1015:    Climate and water systems in Africa.
    Semu Moges
  • 1015-1045: The capacity of Himalayan farmers to adapt to climate change
    Tor Halvdan Aase
  • 10.45-11.15: Discussion
  • 1115-1130: Coffee-break
  • 1130-1200: Water and the future food situation in the world.
    Alberto Garrido
  • 1200-1230: Water, Climate Change and the Problem of Collective Action
    Roar Hagen
  • 1230-1245: Discussion
  • 1245-1400: Lunch
  • 1400-1500: Scientific weather modifications – a solution or danger to future climate changes?
    James R. Fleming
  • 1500-1515: Discussion
  • 1515-1530: Coffee Break
  • 1530-1600: The future research strategy of the IPCC
    Eystein Jansen
  • 1600-1700: Panel discussion: How to study climate, environment and societal development?

Friday February 18:
Venue: Lille auditorium, Lauritz Meltzers hus, University of Bergen

Climate, water and theoretical and methodological issues:

A PhD seminar

Welcoming address: Professor Svein Olaf Dahl, Department of Geography

Here invited Ph.D. students and post.doc. students will present their work for discussion by an expert panel consisting of professors and researchers from different disciplines.

Final programme for this day will therefore be announced January 25.