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Last modified: Monday, September 13, 2010

International climate change scientist Jean Palutikof kicks off Patten Foundation Lecture Series

Sept. 13, 2010

BOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Nobel laureate Jean Palutikof, professor and founding director of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) at Griffith University in Australia, will present two public lectures to launch Indiana University's William T. Patten Lecture Series for the 2010-11 academic year.

Jean Palutikof

Jean Palutikof

Print-Quality Photo

On Oct. 11, Palutikof will speak on "The Role of International Treaties in Tackling Climate Change," and then on Oct. 12, she will present "Adaptation Strategies: A Poor Man's Solution?" Both lectures will take place in the Fine Arts building, Room 015, at 7:30 p.m.

In her first lecture, "The Role of International Treaties in Tackling Climate Change," Palutikof will discuss how there are really only two weapons available to deal with the threat of climate change -- mitigation to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases or adaptation to cope with the impacts of climate change we have failed to avoid by mitigation.

She says governments have until recently managed their interactions around climate change through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Governments meet annually, at the Conference of the Parties, to discuss progress toward reducing emissions, and toward providing financial support to developing countries for adaptation.

But in December 2009, the fifteenth Conference of the Parties was held in Copenhagen and everything changed. The Kyoto Protocol, which sets out the first phase of emissions reduction targets, is due to expire in 2012. Copenhagen was to be the conference at which the governments would put in place the foundations of an agreement that would lead to a world of stabilized emissions in which climate change would be curbed. In terms of these expectations, Palutikof said, it was a terrible failure. Governments emitting the largest emissions made it clear that they would no longer accept the rule of the UNFCCC. Instead, she said, they moved far and fast toward a "bottom-up" approach in which nations make their own "offers" of self-policed commitments, as set out in a non-binding agreement, which has come to be called the Copenhagen Accord.

This presentation discusses likely futures in a world where governments make their own rules about emissions reduction. It examines whether there is a future for the UNFCCC, and looks at the role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in supporting the work of the UNFCCC.

In Palutikof's second lecture, "Adaptation Strategies," she will discuss how, historically, adaptation has always been something of a poor relation of its big-brother, mitigation. It is a bottom-up activity, in which governments play a framing rather than an active role, and in which the role of science is to package existing information for end users. On the international policy-making stage of the UNFCCC, Palutikof said, adaptation was the sop to developing countries -- the promise of funding to support adaptation actions was a carrot to persuade the smaller and poorer countries to support action to limit emissions.

However, with the failure of the international process around limiting greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation has become a much more significant player. Palutikof said it has become abundantly clear to all that there is going to be climate change on a scale that will cause impacts to which we must adapt. These impacts no longer threaten the poor and the insignificant; this year Russia was "brought to its knees" through drought, with up to one-third of the grain crop ruined, and many thousands of people displaced by flooding in China and Pakistan.

This presentation looks at adapting to climate change, the size of the threat and what we can do. It attempts to answer two fundamental questions -- first, how must our lifestyle change in order to live with climate change, and second, can developing countries limit their emissions as they strive to improve living standards?

Jean Palutikof is perhaps the foremost scholar and proponent of climate change adaptation. In her previous post as head of Working Group II of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), she coordinated the assimilation of information regarding climate change vulnerability, impacts and adaptation for the fourth Assessment report of the IPCC. In this capacity she and the IPCC were awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2007. In her current position as director of NCCARF in Australia, she is playing a key role in identifying and prioritizing research foci and is a chief adviser to the Australian government on climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. For more information on Palutikof, see

Remaining Patten Series lectures:

Wendell Berry, writer, poet and lecturer, will speak on Nov. 9 and Nov. 11 in the Fine Arts building, Room 015 at 7:30 p.m. One of America's preeminent philosophers of place, a leading advocate for environmental stewardship and a fierce critic of agribusiness, Berry first came to literary notice as a poet in the 1960s. Since then, he has written nearly 30 books of poetry, an equal number of nonfiction works and more than a dozen novels. The thread running through all of his literary work is sustainability. He articulates a persistent criticism of industrial farming with its reliance on fossil fuels, mono-cultural techniques, and a studied ignorance of the local context in its drive for efficiency and profits. Berry not only anticipated the way in which human relationships with food would become the focus of attention in environmentalism and public culture generally, but he also identified the fundamental relationship between environmental problems, on the one hand, and questions about "virtue ethics" and what it means to live a good life, on the other. For more information on Berry, see

Nancy Fraser, Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Politics and Philosophy, New School for Social Research, will lecture during the week of Jan. 23-28, 2011.Fraser is a political philosopher and feminist theorist whose writing addresses issues surrounding globalization, cosmopolitanism, identity politics, neoliberalism and the welfare state. Her work bridges the world of abstract theory and the world of policy/legal issues. Fraser's scholarship has brought feminist analysis and critical theory to bear on some of the most challenging practical issues facing developed democracies. She addresses a host of questions of broad public interest. How should we conceive of the relationship between identity (e.g., racial and gender equality) and the broader struggle for expanded political and social equality? What place should democratic participation have in our globalizing world and in emerging "post-national" institutions? For more information on Fraser, see

Patten Lecture Series History. The William T. Patten Foundation has provided generous funds to bring to IU Bloomington people of extraordinary national and international distinction since 1937 -- making it the oldest lecture series at Indiana University. More than 180 world-renowned scholars have lectured at IU under its auspices. Noted specialists in their fields, speakers have been chosen for their ability to convey the significance of their work to a general audience. Chosen by a campus-wide faculty committee, Patten lecturers have represented more than 50 academic departments and programs. Past lecturers have included Oscar Arias, Jorge Luis Borges, Noam Chomsky, Natalie Zemon Davis, Umberto Eco, Julian S. Huxley, Evelyn Fox Keller, Toni Morrison, Amos Oz, Helmuth Rilling, Edward Said, Amartya Sen, Wole Soyinka, Ren Thom, Lester Thurow, Strobe Talbott, and Martha Nussbaum.

William T. Patten received his A.B. degree in 1893 in history from IU. After graduation he settled in Indianapolis, where he made a career in real estate and politics, including serving as county auditor. He remained appreciative of the educational opportunities that IU had afforded him, and toward the end of his life, in 1931, he made a gift to the university in the form of liberty bonds and Indiana municipal and county bonds. The gift was to be held as an endowment bearing his name, and the income used for bringing to the campus eminent leaders in their fields for residence and lectures to enrich the intellectual life of the campus.

For a more complete history on William T. Patten and further details on the upcoming lecture series, visit

Inquires about the Patten Foundation and the Patten Lecture Series should be sent to