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IAS Vulnerability Seminar: Uncertainties and Vulnerabilities in the Context...

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IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building, UCL

Gower Street

WC1E 6BT

United Kingdom

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IAS Vulnerability Seminar

Uncertainties and Vulnerabilities in the Context of Climate Change: Perceptions and experiences from ‘above’ and ‘below’ in India

The IAS is delighted to welcome Professor Lyla Mehta, Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, for this Vulnerability Seminar.

Climate shocks and stressors such as cyclones, floods and droughts, changing rainfall patterns and extreme temperatures are some examples of uncertainties that local people, planners and policy makers in the global South are confronted with regularly. It is well known that uncertainties in climate change projections are particularly high. These, combined with economic and political drivers of change have made local level effects difficult to predict. The paper demonstrates that while uncertainty debates in climate change have emerged as a ‘monster’ or ‘super wicked problem’ for scientists and policy makers alike, quantitative assessments and models (usually based on probabilities and ecological risk assessment) remain at the heart of the scientific method. But do these factor in the lived realities of local people women and men especially in the global South? A rich ethnographic literature has meticulously captured the everyday realities of uncertainty and the multiple coping mechanisms that people at the margins deploy to make sense of, live with and adapt to climate change related uncertainties and vulnerabilities. Still, uncertainties and vulnerabilities linked to climate change are often framed in a top-down manner by scientists, modellers and researchers from ‘above’, which then get translated to top-down policy prescriptions. The disconnect between such framings and policies and the everyday lives of communities from ‘below’ could also lead to the emergence of new uncertainties and vulnerabilities. The paper draws on ongoing research in India (dryland Kutch, Sunderbans and Mumbai, India) to analyse diverse discourses and practices of climate change and uncertainty from ‘above’, ‘middle, and ‘below.’ It asks whether there are ways to bridge the different perspectives in order to foster more productive and socially just ways of dealing with uncertainties and social transformation.

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Professor Lyla Mehta works in and co-leads the Resource Politics cluster at the Institute of Development Studies, UK, and is also a Visiting Professor at Noragric, Norwegian University of Life Sciences. A sociologist working in development studies, she uses the case of water and sanitation to focus on rights and access to resources, resource grabbing, the politics of scarcity, gender , power and policy processes. Her work also concerns climate change and uncertainty and gender, displacement and resistance. She has extensive research and field experience in India and southern Africa.

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IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building, UCL

Gower Street

WC1E 6BT

United Kingdom

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