Climate is for ever changing. Yet, over the past decade, concern over possible changes in the planet’s climate has come to dominate the popular and scholarly discourse. At the same time, the scientific debate has intensified on the nature and possible causes underlying changing climate. Questions have arisen over the significance of man-made green house gases in stimulating global warming. Science progresses through such rational criticism and objective discourse, and not through consensus invoked by any authority. Given the open ended nature of science, public policy responses need to recognize the diverse economic preferences of people, and assess the varying technical viability of different proposals. A healthy intellectual climate is vital to our understanding of the planet’s climate.
Liberty Institute, an independent think tank based in New Delhi, has been following the global warming debate for over a decade now. It has been organizing a series of conferences and seminars across India, bringing together scholars to dispassionately discuss the various facets of climate science, science policy, and the various economic policy options. This part of the initiative has been supported by the Friedrich Naumann–Stiftung fur die Freiheit (Friedrich Naumann - Foundation for Freedom) (FNSt), of Germany.
The key objectives of this initiative are: To not only arm ourselves with information, but more importantly, to encourage scientific temperament. To consistently and critically evaluate the information floating around. To underscore the fact that science is a continuous quest for truth, and does not provide security in any final scientific truth. To search for policies that improves environmental quality and further economic development.
In collaboration with the Centre for Extra Mural Studies at the University of Mumbai, an international conference was organized on campus, in October 2011, which had attracted around 250 participants, including academics, researchers, students, concerned citizens and others. This has been followed up with a series of discussions across the country. In addition, daily analysis of the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, in December 2011, was widely circulated.
Irrespective of whether the planet’s climate is changing, or whether man kind is contributing to that change or not, Liberty Institute believes that there are many things that could, and should, be done, which would improve the quality of life of people, increase efficiency and clean the environment . Poor are likely to bear the brunt of any adverse change in the environment. This is not because nature is biased against the poor, but because poverty makes people vulnerable to environmental hazards. Economic development allows people to adapt to environmental changes, and insulate themselves from potential hazards.
Improved environmental quality is like a value added product, which becomes accessible with economic development. In other words, economic growth both, helps people buffer themselves from environmental change, as well as increases their capacity and willingness to pay to protect the environment.
The Calendar: 2012:
- October 14: International Conference on Climate Change: Shifting Science and Changing Policy, Centre for Extra Mural Studies, University of Mumbai
- November 3: Property Rights as Human Rights: Development and Environment, Bhubaneswar
- November 16: Property Rights and Economic Development, Bangalore
- November – December: Durban Diary: Daily commentary and analysis from the sidelines of UNFCCC
- December 17: Property Rights: Promoting Development and Preserving Environment, Guntur
- December 18: Property Rights: Promoting Development and Protecting Environment, Hyderabad
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. It linked the warming over the previous 30 years, by about 0.7 C, to anthropogenic green house gases, particularly CO2. At he UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries have been debating possible carbon emission targets to minimize future adverse impact of changing climate on human societies.
However, over the last few years, a number of errors have been found in the AR4. Also, a number of plausible alternative theories have emerged explaining possible changes in climate. The Heartland Institute, based in the United States, published a comprehensive report, critically assessing the various scientific theories and empirical evidence. The report, “Climate Change Reconsidered” (2009), compiled by a panel of scientists under the banner of the Non-Governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), raises fundamental questions regarding the significance of anthropogenic factors on climate change.
The IPCC is expected to release their fifth assessment report in 2014. And the NIPCC is also preparing to release their second report in 2013.
Over the past year, Liberty Institute, with the support of the Heartland Institute, printed the NIPCC report in India, for wider dissemination. A database has been build of over 10,000 people across different sections of society, including academics, business, concerned citizens, government, legislatures, media, non-government organizations, opinion makers, and scientists. The executive summary of this 800-page report has been translated in to six Indian languages, in an attempt to encourage a more informed discourse and debate. Liberty Institute has also been a part of the international Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change for many years.
Clearly, there is a growing need to continuously assess the science, and reassess the economic policy options and the economic impact of climate. The government of India too has taken a number of initiatives to improve understanding of the underlying science and enlarge the policy options. It is imperative to stimulate a wider discussion across different sections of society.
Julian L. Simon Centre
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