PhD Course

The Age of Uncertainty: Climate change, water systems and social development. February 16-18, 2011

The conference/PH.D.course will bring together leading researchers from different disciplines and countries to summarise what we know and what we do not know regarding the relationship between climate, social development, and environment, with a special focus on water and its role in history and social development. The conference will approach this issue within what is considered a necessary historical and geographical perspective, and it will also raise theoretical and methodological issues involved in studies of climate change, water systems and social development.

We are living in an age where the uncertainty about future climate development has become an overriding political, ideological and moral issue. This uncertainty about the future is primarily an uncertainty about the future of water. Are we living in a century that will see more floods and smelting glaciers and heavier rainfall? Or are we living in a century with more droughts, less rainfall and shrinking rivers and lakes? And where will it be less water and where will it more water? And to what extent will this uncertainty about the future of water make water control an even more important source of power? The way the water issues are solved will change the geopolitical map of the world and change the lives for billions of people

Different environments, whether it is deserts, savannas, tropical forests or arctic areas, are water-worlds or waterscapes, which change in accordance to seasons and climatic variables. Climate change implies changes in the hydrological cycle and 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, and civilisations and world systems have benefitted from changes in the waterscapes.

Analyses and political predictions of climate change and the societal consequences are often presented as universal and general, but these changing processes are also parts of specific geographical and historical contexts. Climate change and changes in precipitation patterns will have context-dependent and specific regional consequences. Some areas may be favoured or not seriously affected by these changes whereas, in other areas, the very same changes may have dramatic and devastating impacts. To understand the relationship between water, climate and social development will, obviously, be one of the main issues in the future, whatever happens to the climate.

The Ph.D. course will consist of two parts:

  1. Participation in the three days conference: ā€œThe Age of Uncertainty: Climate change, water systems and social developmentā€.
  2. Submit and present a paper for discussion at the third day of the seminar on a topic related to the main theme of the conference. A panel of researchers will assess the submitted papers, and decide who will be given the opportunity to present his or her work at the conference (see reading list attatched)

Candidates who would like to present their papers for discussion at the conference must hand in a paper proposal consisting of max. 500 words, by 10.januar 2011. The paper proposal must be written in word-format, and sent attached to an e-mail containing your CV, to:

A panel of researchers will select the best candidates by 15.januar 2011. The candidates who are given the opportunity to present their work at the conference must write a full essay (4000-6000 words) based on their paper proposal and the reading list attached. The essay will be open for discussion at the conference, right after the presentation. Diploma for the participation will be issued: 3 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) for participation and 10 ECTS for reading/Presentation of paper (4000-6000).

The selected candidates will be given travel support of NOK 5000,-.


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