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.

This conference, which is also the final conference organized by the “water group” led by Terje Tvedt, at the Centre for Advanced Studies at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, University of Oslo (2008-2009), is organized in cooperation with the Department of Geography, the Nile Basin Research Program and the Faculty of Social Science, University of Bergen and The Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden.

The Conference is open to all.

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

Venue: Egget, Studentsenteret, University of Bergen

Climate change, water systems and social development
Organiser: Department of Geography, University of Bergen