Climate Futures for ESHS: call for contributions

Historicizing climate futures: representational politics and public imaginaries

During the last fifty years, scientific representations of climate futures have become uni-directional in nature, eclipsing the static or cyclical views of climate evolution. Current views heavily lean towards scenarios of continuous, positive radiative forcing in which anthropogenic drivers override the natural variability and all but eliminate the likelihood of alternative outcomes until at least 2100 (IPCC 2013). Historically, however, directional representations competed with alternatives, most notably with the steady-state (or oscillatory) ideas associated with geographic latitudes or physiognomies of regional lands. Even within the directional framework, varieties of outcomes and mechanisms of change have been proposed: terminal glaciations ceded to terminal meltdowns, benign variability to apocalyptic extremes, floods to deserts. And arguments were raised as to whether particular trends yield or undercut benefits and if the change should be faced with equanimity, despair, curiosity, technofix, political change, or transformative economies. 

This panel is devoted to thinking about how particular representations of climate (and climate pasts and futures) become available as subjects of scientific research, influencing present decision making and public imaginaries. The panel explores how different conceptualizations of climates gain traction and articulate shared panoramas of environmental and political destinies. These representations act as dynamic, politically expedient clusters of projections and narratives designed to translate the complexities of science into syncretic but intuitive fictions that inform the governance of environmental and political affairs of the present. In doing so, climate futures embody and make visible scientific results in ways in which they can forge political argument and public policy. The combination of directionality and anthropogenicity in climatology during the 1970s, for example, resulted in its transformation from a largely geographical exercise into a computer-intensive security problem of the first-rate importance (Ross 1991).

We invite scholars whose research focuses on these themes in historical context, whether they work from the perspectives of history of science, science and technology studies, human geography, or environmental humanities. The general topics include, but are not limited to:

•       Scientific and popular representations of climate and climate change in history
•       History, theory, and material cultures of climate pasts and futures
•       The politics of weather and climate change representations
•       Representational frames of extremes and anomalies
•       Histories of scenario science and impact assessments
•       National differences in approaches to present and future climate risks
•       Representations in paleoclimatology and climate modelling
•       Visions of stability and visions of change
•       Media framing of climate futures

For expression of interest please contact: Vladimir Jankovic.