British Association for South Asian Studies

Research Groups

Social Science and Science of Climate Change in South Asia

Convenor: Professor Barbara Harriss-White, University of Oxford

South Asia is widely predicted to be a major victim of the coming unavoidable climate change while also being the third most significant greenhouse gas emitter in the current era. At the same time India, as the leading emitter in South Asia, has little historical responsibility for emissions and per capita emissions are among the world's lowest. Although the South Asian middle classes have European levels of energy consumption, nearly half the population does not have access to electricity at all and depends on forms of oil, biomass, animal and human energy. While policy responses currently stress India's role in the Clean Development Mechanism, India's Integrated Energy Policy lays great emphasis on coal and fossil fuel, meanwhile enormous possibilities for solar energy appear to languish. In addition the physical stresses of climate change are expected to have an impact on international relations in the region.

Climate change is the biggest development threat facing the entire world. As Lord Stern has commented globally, the response to climate change engages every social science discipline, together with the 'development sciences' of agriculture/biological sciences, materials sciences, engineering, technology and medicine. As elsewhere in the world, state, market and civil society all need mobilisation in the face of the processes being unleashed. The study of the nations of South Asia exemplifies the analytical problems of the juxtaposition of the general with the historical and the specific — in theory and in practical action and policy. In particular much of South Asia's economy and polity is informalised, ordered and controlled by forms of authority other than those of state and market.

In a session of the 2009 BASAS conference, we invited papers on the politics and science of climate change in South Asia. The session intended to be broad based, and subjects could include critical evaluations of: different national contributions to and engagement with international institutions, policies and initiatives (such as the CDM, the UNFCCC etc); national policies and politics; local, regional and municipal responses to climate change—related threats and opportunities; debates over adaptation and mitigation strategies; climate change and environmental justice issues in relation the international and national contexts; the roles of the media, scientists and other non-state actors; and scientific analyses/models of the different physical dimensions of climate change.

The session acted as a platform to discuss the launch of a new Research Group within BASAS on the 'Social science and science of climate change in South Asia'. This research group does not expect or require direct funding by the British Academy (or BASAS) but is designed in the first instance to establish a network of scholars with shared interests, to act as a forum for debate, and help generate distinctive research initiatives which can be submitted to grant-awarding bodies.

For further details, please contact:
Professor Barbara Harriss-White: