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Sir Robert Watson to Give Keynote at Global Climate Change Conference

Professor Sir Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 1997 to 2002, will speak at Yale Law School on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012.

His talk, the opening keynote of the conference, “Global Climate Change Policy Without the United States: Thinking the Unthinkable,” begins at 4:30 p.m. in Yale Law School’s Room 127, with a reception to follow in the YLS dining hall at 6:00 p.m.

Watson, who has worked on atmospheric science issues including ozone depletion, global warming and paleoclimatology since the 1980s, has held a number of internationally prominent posts. Most recently, he served as chief scientific advisor to the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

He is the former chief scientist and director for environmentally and socially sustainable development at the World Bank. Prior to joining the World Bank, he was associate director for environment in the office of science and technology policy under President Clinton. He also served as director of the science division and chief scientist for the Office of Mission to Planet Earth at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Watson has received many national and international awards and prizes for his contributions to science, including the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility in 1993, the insignia of Honorary Companion of St. Michael and St. George from the British Government on December 10, 2003, and the Blue Planet Prize in 2010. During the New Years Honours of 2011, Watson was knighted by the British Government.

He kicks off a conference program that brings together leading experts from a variety of disciplines to consider how climate change might be addressed assuming a lack of robust action by the United States.

Lawmakers, diplomats, academics, and other interested parties have traditionally discussed global climate change policy on the assumption that formal U.S. participation is necessary to achieve meaningful success – an understandable view given the substantial share of annual and historic greenhouse gas emissions that are attributable to the United States. Yet, for the better part of two decades, fracture and confusion regarding the U.S. position on climate change policy have complicated development of a robust international regime. At this juncture, increasing numbers of observers are asking whether it makes sense to continue to wait for the United States to agree to robust policy actions. Indeed, in response to mounting frustration over the U.S. role in international climate talks, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Frank Loy noted last year that “some are asking something even more fundamental: Is the U.S. governable?”

The conference, which takes place Nov. 9-10, is co-sponsored by the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School, the Yale Climate & Energy Institute, and the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy. It is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For registration information, the conference agenda, and speaker biographies, please visit http://envirocenter.yale.edu/climate2012/conference or contact Susanne Stahl at susanne.stahl@yale.edu.